Nearly all congressional Republicans have signed Grover Norquist's Taxypayer Protection Pledge, but the influence of the Americans for Tax Reform president may be waning within the party. Some members are saying that with the financial woes facing the country, keeping Norquist's pledge is simply unrealistic.
Signatories of the pledge promise to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates." As Congress negotiates with President Barack Obama to avoid the fiscal cliff at the end of the year, compromise will be needed to avoid both the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that will otherwise be enacted on January 1.
Norquist has long exercised power over the GOP; only four current Republican representatives and six senators haven't signed the pledge. But as negotiations move forward, some Republicans say they practically cannot uphold their promise not to increase taxes if a deal is to be reached. Former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson said Norquist and his pledge are "losing a person a day:"
He is becoming irrelevant.You can see it in his eyes. He knows the game is up because good people, of good faith, have decided instead of being Republicans or Democrats, they're Americans. Instead of being beholden to Grover Norquist and the AARP, they're beholden to the United States of America.
Other Republicans say that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, which would raise taxes, is not in violation of the pledge because they would not directly be voting to increase taxes. They would instead do nothing to prevent the cuts from ending, effectively raising taxes. Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said his party should compromise with Obama and allow the tax cuts to expire for all but the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
"I think we ought to take the 98 percent deal right now," he said. "It doesn't mean I agree with raising the top 2. I don't."
He said Republicans need to take away Obama's argument that the party is holding up negotiations to protect the ultrarich, and after a deal is reached, Republicans can continue their fight to extend the cuts for all.
Time's Michael Grunwald said that it is overdramatic for the Republican Party to suddenly give Norquist the cold shoulder and blame him entirely for the party's concrete refusal to consider tax increases. He said pledge signatories are acting like they were bullied into signing it in the first place:
The popularity of the pledge does not mean that Grover is a marionette controlling the Republican Party. It means that the Republican Party and its base tends to share Grover's monomaniacal loathing for taxes and government.
The fact that Republican primary voters reward politicians who make irresponsible and extreme tax promises does not make Norquist a bully. It makes him a remarkably effective lobbyist.
He goes on to say that Republicans can speak out against Norquist all they want, but they still haven't publicly committed to raising taxes:
For now, they're still bound by their irresponsible commitments to oppose any new taxes. And their irresponsibility was their own. Grover was just smart enough to collect their signatures.
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