“As I recall, and again, this was something 10 and a half years ago, the wording was, ‘I won’t vote for any marginal rate increases’ and so forth. Presumably, most Members of Congress plan to be there more than one cycle. So nobody could lock themselves in perpetuity into a position like that. That’s like saying you’d never vote for armed intervention in a foreign country, until we get attacked.”
He also noted he hadn’t voted to raise taxes and had no immediate plans to do so.
“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,” Johnson said.
Norquist had a different view. “This doesn’t pass the laugh test,” he said, describing the pledge as a “simple declarative statement” that inherently applies “as long as you’re in Congress.”
Norquist said the pledge originated as a way for lawmakers to credibly promise to voters that they wouldn’t raise taxes and wasn’t just a temporary stance to get them through a difficult re-election.
Johnson said his position now wasn’t related to his new, more Democratic district. And he said signing it in 2002 wasn’t related to that upcoming primary election because no one challenged him in the primary.
Also, Johnson said, 2002 is a long time ago. “Ten and a half years ago, that’s a long time. That’s 20 percent of my life!”
Finally, he described being inundated with requests for stances on positions from interest groups during a campaign.
“You don’t know, I guess you’re not on this end of receiving it, but when you’re a candidate for office, particularly the United States Congress, we probably get, I don’t know how to estimate, but 400 to 500 questionnaires, pledges, statements and so forth on an endless variety of issues that come to us all the time,” Johnson said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.