Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the pledge… (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg )
Reporting from Washington — A House Republican tore into powerful anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist on Tuesday, blasting Norquist’s no-tax pledge for “paralyzing Congress” and listing what he labeled “unsavory” associations.
Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform, asks all candidates for office to promise not to raise taxes. In remarks on the House floor, Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf blamed Norquist’s pledge for preventing an open conversation about how eliminating tax credits and deductions could help reduce the deficit.
“Have we really reached a point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?” Wolf said.
Wolf is one of six House Republicans who have not signed Norquist’s pledge, which comes with the threat of political blowback if it is broken. As Congress struggles with ways to cut the deficit, and many in Washington have discussed forging a bipartisan deal that would cut spending and raise taxes, Norquist and his group’s pledge have come under increasing scrutiny. Wolf went after Norquist personally, claiming he had connections to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Internet gambling lobby and Fannie Mae.
“Everything must be on the table and I believe how the pledge is interpreted and enforced by Mr. Norquist is a roadblock to realistically reforming our tax code,” Wolf said.
In an interview, Norquist responded that the pledge does not stand in the way of tax reform and allows for the elimination of tax credits as long as tax rates are lowered to prevent a net increase. He defended the role the pledge has played in the current deficit debate.
“It makes the commitment not to raise taxes credible, believable and durable,” he said. “It makes it easier for voters and politicians to understand each other. ... If you won’t take the pledge it says I’m hoping to raise taxes whenever I want.”
Underneath the dispute are persistent questions about whether lawmakers will strike a “grand bargain” for deficit reduction that cuts spending, overhauls the tax code and raises revenue. Norquist said he sees no reason for Republicans to cede ground the year before an election.
“Everything is going to be renegotiated with a GOP Senate and GOP House and, maybe, a Republican in the White House,” he said.