Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist is watching his political empire crumble.
“I’m not obligated on [Norquist’s] pledge,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said Monday, appearing on “CBS This Morning.” “I made Tennesseans aware I was just elected that the only thing I’m honoring is the oath I take when I’m sworn in this January.”
As one of the nation’s most influential activists, Norquist and his group Americans for Tax Reform have held sway in Washington for nearly two decades thanks to a pledge most Republicans in Congress signed, vowing to never raise taxes. Since the president’s re-election, however, more and more Republicans are forsaking that pledge.
The so-called “fiscal cliff” discussions in Washington have centered on whether Republicans and Democrats can compromise with each other to avert mandatory tax hikes and budget cuts at the start of 2013. Those cuts are known as “sequestration,” an automatic budget reduction plan created by Congress during the debt ceiling talks in 2010 that would cut $2 trillion from the nation’s budget over the next decade, pulling equal amounts from entitlement programs and defense budgets.
President Barack Obama made it a point during his reelection campaign to explain that he wants wealthy individuals and families to pay more, proposing that Congress do what it planned all along: let the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans expire. That would trigger a 4.6 percent tax increase for top earners, bringing them in line with Clinton-era tax rates.
However, if Congress does not come to an agreement by the end of the year, all Americans’ taxes will return to Clinton-era levels, not just the wealthy’s– which would seem to give the president significant leverage in the negotiations, as Republicans don’t want to be portrayed as causing tax hikes on most Americans.
That’s precisely why Sen. Corker isn’t alone. Despite a recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal by Norquist, boasting that no Republicans will violate his pledge, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Sunday that “Grover is wrong… I will violate the pledge.”
“When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece,” he explained. “And Republicans should put revenue on the table. We’re this far in debt, we don’t generate enough revenue.”
The top Republican in the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), has also said that fresh government revenues are “on the table,” following similar pronouncements by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY).
Speaking to CBS, Corker insisted that compromising on taxes and entitlement spending is “the easiest and best thing we can do for this country is to go ahead and rip the band-aid off, make these decisions, and in January we’ll see an economy that will take off.”
This video is from “CBS This Morning,” broadcast Monday, November 26, 2012.