Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, remains firm that… (Alex Wong / Getty Images )
Grover Norquist on Wednesday rebuffed claims that his anti-tax crusade is losing steam, calling statements from prominent Republicans hinting at their departure from his anti-tax pledge "impure thoughts."
Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, met with Politico’s Mike Allen to offer his thoughts on the looming “fiscal cliff,” and the growing narrative that Republicans, after years of tying themselves to ATR’s pledge not to raise taxes, may be ready to jump ship.
Most recently, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said in a private meeting with the House Republican whip team Tuesday morning that Republicans should take the opportunity to extend President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for 98% of Americans, calling it an “early Christmas present” for taxpayers.
And on Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) joined Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) in voicing concern over continued adherence to Norquist’s pledge.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) responded to Cole on Wednesday, saying that though Cole is a friend and supporter, he disagrees entirely with his stance. “The goal here is to grow the economy and control spending. You’re not going to grow the economy if you raise tax rates on the top two rates,” Boehner said.
Though Norquist commented that Cole’s recommendation was “an interesting tactic,” he remained firm that his pledge remains viable, saying that anyone suggesting that opposing tax increases is no longer in vogue is “an idiot.”
The pledge, Norquist claimed, “takes weasel words out” of campaign promises to cut taxes, and provides voters a clear picture of a candidate's stance, a stance he said the Republican Party has built its brand upon.
Norquist said that signing the pledge is about informing voters and entrenching a preexisting policy stance, instead of an oath of fealty to ATR and its champion cause.
“They don’t need my permission to raise taxes,” he said, adding that such power lies in the hands of voters.
And he dismissed claims that the pledge’s powers extend beyond the promises tied to its concise wording.
“It doesn’t solve all of the world’s problems; it doesn’t design tax reform,” Norquist said.
But Norquist did design a general road map for Republicans to use in fiscal cliff negotiations.
“You need to have this conversation in public, you need to be online so you can have the moral higher ground,” he said, recommending that the GOP aim for a temporary extension of Bush’s tax cuts, with comprehensive tax reform to follow soon after.
“If the Republicans lose in such a way that they have their fingerprints on the murder weapon, then you have a problem,” he said, adding that public debate over the fiscal cliff would allow Republicans a chance to turn the tide against President Obama and the Democrats, so long as they maintain “credible clarity” in espousing their low-tax vision.
Norquist said he worries about conceding any ground to Democrats on tax increases.
“What the Democrats do is trickle-down taxation,” he said. “They tax the rich and then they screw everybody.”
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