Norquist pledge: Are GOP tax rebels start of a trend or just talk? (+video)(Read article summary)
Norquist pledge, which calls for lawmakers to oppose new taxes, has another defector: Republican Sen. Bob Corker. But key players in 'fiscal cliff' negotiations have yet to join ranks of such GOP rebels.
In recent days some big-name congressional Republicans have said they wonât be bound by past pledges to not raise taxes. Theyâre rejecting this aspect of GOP orthodoxy to help strike a deal on the nationâs âfiscal cliffâ problem, they say.
The latest lawmaker to bolt the longtime antitax party line is Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, who said on Monday heâd be flexible about raising tax rates and capping income-tax deductions in return for reform of Americaâs huge entitlement spending programs.
Senator Corker, like virtually all other US GOP officeholders, once vowed to oppose and vote against all tax increases by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge of antitax activist Grover Norquist. But on "CBS This Morning," he told host Charlie Rose he wouldnât let this past position stand in the way of solving todayâs fiscal problems.
âIâm not obligated on the pledge ... the only thing Iâm honoring is the oath that I take when Iâm sworn in this January,â said Corker.
Corker thus joins Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Republican Rep. Peter King of New York in saying that adherence to the Norquist pledge is outdated. Are they the harbinger of a mass defection that would make it much easier for party leaders to strike a deal with the White House?
Well, anythingâs possible in politics. But we donât see this as a game-changing development, at least not yet.
First, the folks weâre talking about here arenât important players in terms of fiscal cliff negotiations. Remember, the Senate is controlled by Democrats, so what GOP senators think is much less important than what top House Republicans think. True, Representative King is a committee chairman, but itâs the Homeland Security Committee, and heâll have to step down in the next Congress due to party chairmanship limits. (House Speaker John Boehner has spoken vaguely of accepting revenue increases, but hasnât detailed what that means.)
Second, these revelations arenât exactly new. The lawmakers involved have either endorsed tax increases in the past as part of a deficit deal (Chambliss, Corker), often floated initiatives of one kind or another, only to back down (Graham), or are moderate Republicans in a district surrounded by Democratic areas (King), writes David Dayen Monday on the left-leaning Firedoglake blog.
âThereâs no news here at all, but instead a fake Washington drama based on personality,â writes Mr. Dayen.
Third, the counterattack from the right has already begun. Grover Norquist himself on CNNâs "Starting Point" on Monday played down the issue, saying itâs nothing but a few lawmakers âdiscussing impure thoughts on national television." Some conservative activists have been more pointed, saying that all those involved risk facing primary challenges from the right if they maintain such an attitude.
âOn this core issue, Republicans like Chambliss and Graham side with Democrats. We side with the Constitution,â writes Mr. Horowitz.
One final thought: If individual GOP lawmakers, such as those mentioned above, truly believe the antitax pledge shouldnât prevent a fiscal cliff solution, should they just keep quiet about it, pending negotiations?
Thatâs because Speaker Boehner faces tough talks with the White House. In terms of game theory, Boehner might benefit from administration uncertainty as to where the rank-and-file GOP stands.
Theoretically, President Obama might give in a bit more if the administration comes to believe that Republican backbenchers would revolt at revenue increases.
âBoehner may ironically (but completely classically from a game theoretic vantage point) benefit from being able to portray himself (accurately or not) as not being able to corral his own troops. âSir, I told them gruel was sufficient to survive the night, but they simply insisted theyâd die without gruyere,â â writes John Patty, an associate professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis, on his blog, The Math of Politics.