Grover Norquist,the anti-tax advocate and president of Americans for Tax Reform, has been described as everything from the most powerful man in the country to a puppet-master for the Republican party. But when asked about his influence on the GOP, House Speaker John Boehner acted like he barely knew him.
"It's not often I'm asked about some random person in America," Boehner said. The questioner, MSNBC's Luke Russert, pushed further. "Our focus is on jobs, not someone's personality," Boehner replied.
Norquist is most famous—or infamous, depending on how your politics go—for sponsoring an anti-tax pledge that many Republican lawmakers signed onto in their run up for the party nomination. According to Norquist's group, only six Republican House members and seven GOP senators haven't singed the anti-tax pledge. Boehner's John Hancock is squarely on the no-new-taxes manifesto. Democrats have blasted Norquist for holding a gun to the GOP's head on agreeing to any tax hikes, thereby preventing both sides from coming to a deficit agreement which could include new taxes. This morning, in remarks on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed that the Republican caucus was cowering in fear of Norquist's political power.
"They are terrified to violate the infamous Grover Norquist tax pledge, even though they know it's the right thing to do," Reid said. "They are in thrall to a man whose singular focus is keeping taxes low for the very wealthy, no matter what the effect on this nation. They fear his political retribution."
Norquist, for his part, claims that it's really voters who are resisting any call for new taxes.