The End of the Grover Norquist Anti-Tax Era?

The Common Good recently hosted Grover Norquist, the very powerful founder of the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform on October 25. [ See TCG Norquist event & video here]

Now that the “fiscal cliff”, deficit reduction and taxes suddenly dominate the national dialogue, the man increasingly revealed at the center of the debate is Grover Norquist. Norquist’s “no tax pledge” has been instrumental in keeping Republicans from even considering voting for any increase in revenues even while we have fought two lengthy and expensive wars. Some say Norquist’s tactics have contributed significantly to the gridlock that has gripped Washington for a number of years. Now some Republicans, notably Senators Saxby Chambliss, Lindsey Graham, Bob Corker and Cong. Peter King, among others, may be ready to break ranks to find common ground.

Perhaps Norquist is not all-powerful, but he is a symbol of a form of absolutism on policy that makes passing legislation even more difficult than the sausage-making it already is. The possibility of a break in ranks also may not be without risks for these leaders and so we therefore applaud the reasoned debate that follows from a more open-minded approach. At The Common Good we know that putting the good of the country first over ideology, engaging in rational debate and looking to find common ground have been too much in short supply and are imperative to finding solutions to the enormous problems immediately ahead. But the battle on the “fiscal cliff” is far from over.

Please join us in our efforts to bridge our differences as we debate our future.

Here are some prominent news discussions about the significance of the possible break with Norquist on taxes.

Lindsey Graham, Peter King break with Grover Norquist

WASHINGTON POST, Sean Sullivan (11/25) - A pair of congressional Republicans reiterated their willingness Sunday to violate an anti-tax pledge in order to strike a deal on the “fiscal cliff,” echoing Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the Georgia Republican who suggested last week that the oath may be outdated.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said he was prepared to set aside Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge if Democrats will make an effort to reform entitlements, and Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) suggested the pledge may be out of step in the present economy…

King: “I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss. A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress. For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed a declaration of war against Japan. I’m not going to attack Japan today. The world has changed, and the economic situation is different.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told CBS’s Charlie Rose that he, too, was “not obligated on the pledge.”

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Republicans’ Problem Is Bigger Than Grover Norquist

BLOOMBERG,  Francis Wilkinson (11/27) - The lead editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal throws a generous arm around Grover Norquist and assures readers he is not the problem in Washington. Elsewhere, liberal columnists are rejoicing over the perceived diminution of Norquist’s power—a result of a couple of Republican senators lately suggesting they won’t be bound by the Norquist-sponsored pledge not to raise taxes.

The leader of Americans for Tax Reform (substitute the word “elimination” for “reform” and you capture the essence of the agenda), Norquist has genuine power as head of a group that made more than $15 million in independent expenditures in the 2012 campaign.

But Norquist is largely a figurehead. He is the most vocal and public monomaniac among a network of groups funded by Republican millionaires who oppose higher taxes on the wealthy.

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THE NEW YORKER, John Cassidy (11/26) – …For now, G.O.P. ultras are on the defensive, and none is more besieged than Norquist. To an extent that he can never have imagined, he has become a target for Republicans seeking to do a deal with the President and, simultaneously, to shift their party to the center. What began as a few dissidents questioning the pledge not to raise taxes that Norquist has championed over the past two decades—a pledge the vast majority of Republicans in both chambers have signed—is threatening to turn into something bigger: a substantive shift in policy, and a symbolic torching of outdated dogmas, with Grover on the top of the bonfire.

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Is Grover Finally Over?

NEW YORK TIMES, Frank Bruni (11/26) - …Someday someone will write a dark history — a farce, really — of how [Norquist] managed to bring nearly all of the Republican Party to heel, compelling legislator upon legislator to lash themselves to his no-new-taxes pledge. Until then we’ll have to content ourselves with his misfortune over the last few days. No sooner had a nation digested its turkey than his goose began to be cooked. The spreading rebellion in the Republican ranks was manifest on the post-Thanksgiving Sunday talk shows.

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