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With the super committee deliberations behind them, Republicans have little incentive to change course and accept tax increases before the November elections, Grover Norquist, the outspoken anti-tax lobbyist, told Roll Call on Tuesday.
In the hours after the super committee officially announced its failure, Democrats and liberal activists rushed to blame him. But Norquist, whose anti-tax pledge is signed by nearly every Republican in Congress, is unapologetic and said that Democrats are simply using him as a scapegoat.
Pledge or no pledge, Republicans will continue to resist tax increases right up to the 2012 elections, he said, setting the stage for yet another deadline brawl over what to do about $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts set to take place in January 2013.
Norquist’s 20-year-old pledge has served not only as a litmus test for Republicans, but in the last several months it has also become a strategic tool for those who oppose him.
“The bottom line is that no super committee can succeed with Grover Norquist as its 13th member,” Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a member of the panel, said just hours after the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction was declared dead Monday night.
Last week a group of wealthy liberals, known as the Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, lobbying for a repeal of the Bush-era tax cuts came to Washington to make their case in separate meetings with 13 Members of Congress — and one with Norquist, a choice that was made at least in part because he has become a symbol for the Republican establishment.
“He is very good at lobbying on behalf of his single issue,” said Charlie Fink, one of the activists who attended last week’s meetings organized by a liberal New York think tank, the Agenda Project. “[He] can hoist any Republican who is compromise-minded up by their own petard.”
Washington insiders say that skill was on display last week when Norquist’s followers in Congress quickly moved to quash signs that a Republican on the super committee was willing to compromise on taxes. A proposal from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), which included only a modest tax increase, was rejected by Democrats, but the blowback from his own party signaled the end of earnest deliberations to many.
After huddling with members of the Republican Study Committee on Nov. 15, Norquist started encouraging Members of Congress to formally oppose any tax increase being part of the super committee deliberations.
Two days later, 72 House Republicans sent a letter to the super committee urging members not to raise taxes.
Norquist dismissed the notion that his pledge had anything to do the failure of the Toomey plan, noting that Democrats had already clearly rejected it.
“What was weird that Toomey kept talking about it,” he said. “I think that scared the other members into thinking, ‘he’s going to try drag us over the finish line.’”