Nel's New Day

June 24, 2012

Norquist Ties to Keep Pledgers in Line

For a brief time, the Congressional Republicans seemed to be regaining a piece of their sanity. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told ABC News that Republicans should eliminate loopholes in the tax code even if they aren’t replaced by additional tax cuts. “When you eliminate a deduction, it’s OK with me to use some of that money to get us out of debt. That’s where I disagree with the pledge,” he said. He went so far as to say that Republicans should be flexible. Maybe he had been listening to former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), co-chair of President Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010, who said, “You can’t cut spending your way out of this hole.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) argued so forcefully that Republicans must abandon that pledge if they are serious about tackling the spiraling national debt that he persuaded 34 Senate Republicans to cancel billions of dollars in annual tax credits for ethanol blenders. “Grover, you’re stupid, forget it, we’re going to vote the right way,” Coburn said.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) proposed a 5-percent surtax on all income over $1 million annually. And there’s more.

“I’m not saying I’m even committed now to a tax increase, but I think anybody who doesn’t indicate their willingness to look at revenues–expiration of tax loopholes, tax credits, increase in contribution to Social Security, which is a tax, and otherwise–would be disingenuous and irresponsible.” – Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL) who claimed he didn’t sign the pledge but actually did

“I have learned, never sign a damn pledge.” – Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN)

“Grover Norquist has no credibility, so I don’t respond to him. He doesn’t deserve being responded to.” – Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

“Have we really reached the 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?” – Rep. Frank Wolff (R-VA)

“I informed the organization I don’t consider [the earlier pledge] binding. I don’t care to be associated with it. It’s too constraining.” – Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)

“The only pledge I take anymore is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. That’s the pledge every member takes when he gets sworn in and that’s the pledge you ougtta be concerned about.” – Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) noting that he signed the pledge only once when he first ran for Congress in 1998

“Grover Norquist is not in my district. I represent the state of Wyoming and its people.” – Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

“I’m no longer signing any pledges to anybody. I’m not going to sign it next year.” – Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI)

“My driver’s license expires, the milk in my refrigerator expires, the only thing that doesn’t expire is Grover Norquist’s pledge–and that’s nuts.” – Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH)

“I’m married to Camille Andrews, not Grover Norquist. I promised her to be faithful until death do us part, and I mean it. I did not promise him to oppose tax increases until death do us part.” – Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ)

“We shouldn’t be bound by something that could be interpreted different ways if what we’re trying to accomplish is broad-based tax reform.” – Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

All these rejections of Norquist’s pledge looked hopeful until he had a private audience with his minions last Wednesday. After visiting Graham, he said, “Graham will never vote for a tax increase.” About Coburn, Norquist said, “He had a moment of weakness where he thought you had to raise taxes to get spending restraint. He now knows that’s not true.” Norquist has lost Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), the only Democrat Senator to sign the pledge, but he probably doesn’t much care. Nelson is not running for re-election.

Norquist went to the Hill to “educate” Congressmen. “We believe that if you make the taxes simpler and can actually lower the taxes, the government takes in more money,” freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) said after the meeting. I guess that’s “Grover-speak.”

Signing the Norquist pledge smacks of treason. All members of Congress sign an oath to protect the Constitution. Article I, Section 8 states:

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”

The Norquist pledge states:

I, ____, pledge to the taxpayers of the (____ district of the) state of _____ and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Instead of providing for the “general welfare” as required by the Constitution, conservatives sign a pledge resulting in a policy of “sink or swim” for everyone in the country—except the wealthy. As any parent knows, two-year-olds say “No!” to everything no matter what it is. Multi-dimensional adults use a thoughtful approach.

Both taxes and government spending are the lowest they have been in 60 years. Yet Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are determined to raise taxes on the poor and middle class while drastically cutting taxes for the top 1% of income earners with each plan adding trillions to the nation’s debt. The Norquist Pledge of “No!” means protecting the corporate interest. That’s the summer’s fight—right after the Supreme Court ruling on health care.

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