Grover Norquist might be on the ropes. It all began on Wednesday when Saxby Chambliss broke publicly with Grover Norquist over revenue on Georgia TV station WMAZ. He has since been joined by other Republicans: Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Reps. Peter King (R-NY), Steve LaTourette (R-OH) and Scott Rigell (R-VA).
Chambliss (perhaps famously) said, “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge. If we do it his way, then we’ll continue in debt and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”
Some were dubious of Chambliss and for good reason, but the signs of eroding support for Norquist were there even before Chambliss spoke. And there is courage in numbers and he is no longer alone in repudiating Norquist. Additional weight comes from the prominence of men like Graham and King.
These are not a couple of freshmen unwilling to play along. Though speaking of young Republicans, Rigell, who has not taken the tax pledge (he didn’t even attend Norquist’s “educational meeting” on the Capitol Hill this summer), told The Huffington Post in July, “My advice and counsel to ‘Young Guns’ would be to not sign the Americans for Tax Reform pledge.”
Watch via Mediaite:
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on ABC’s This Week, “I agree with Grover, we shouldn’t raise rates, but I think Grover is wrong when it comes to we can’t cap deductions and buy down debt. … I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.”
Graham said, “I’m willing to generate revenue. It’s fair to ask my party to put revenue on the table. We’re below historic averages.”
“I think Grover is wrong when it comes to, we can’t cap deductions and buy down debt.” Like Chambliss, Graham cited love of country as the cause of his betrayal, saying he would “violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country.”
King came out of the closet on NBC’s Meet the Press. He said, “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.”
Norquist is stomping his feet, as you might expect, calling King a “weasel,” reports Politico this morning. Norquist said on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” on Monday that “The pledge is not for life, but everybody who signed the pledge including Peter King, and tried to weasel out of it, shame on him.” Getting all snarky, he added, “I hope his wife understands that commitments last a little longer than two years or something.”
Showing he likes weak analogies, Norquist said,
‘Oh, the mortgage, wasn’t that a long time ago?’
“If you make a commitment, you keep it.”
Listen to what Norquist had to say to CNN’s Soledad O’Brien:
Apparently, an agreement with Norquist is as legally binding as a mortgage, at least in Norquist’s self-important, inflated head.
The other two Republicans voiced their opposition on CNN last weekend: “LaTourette and Rigell told Ali Velshi that they thought the straitjacket pledge was an impediment to dealing with the deficit and the debt.”
None of this means a complete surrender by Republicans on deficit negotiations. Republicans want something in return of course, but it signals that the GOP may finally be willing to budge ideologically.
Graham for example, says “To do this, I just don’t want to promise the spending cuts. I want entitlement reforms. Republicans always put revenue on the table. Democrats always promise to cut spending. Well, we never cut spending.”
Of course, as I pointed out yesterday, the spending has in fact come from Republicans, not Democrats. So Graham might want to look at eliciting from his fellow party members that sort of promise.
Just 45 of 83 of the Republican National Congressional Committee’s current crop of so-called Young Guns have signed the no-tax pledge this election season, according to a Huffington Post analysis of pledge signatures.
You might already have heard of Tourette and Rigell, when they made news for another break with the Republican Party (on June 28, 2012), when they were the only two Republicans to vote against a motion to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. Tourette , who has served his district since 1995, is notable for voting against a measure to strip funding from NPR, being one of only seven to do so.
In March 2011, Tourette characterized some of his fellow anti-tax Republicans as “knuckledraggers.” His position as stated then was that if we use the transportation infrastructure, it’s only fair that we pay for it.
This should not, I need to stress here, be a remarkable position. But it is, coming from a Republican.
One of the Republican young guns not sold on Norquist is Richard Tisei’s (R-MA) didn’t need to be cautioned by Rigell. He told The Huffington Post this summer, “I’m not signing any pledges. I’m just promising to use my best judgment as a congressman. And I think that’s the problem in Washington right now. You have both Democrats and Republicans that are inflexible on certain issues.”
HuffPo pointed to another prominent young gun, Joe Coors (R-CO), who announced back in July that he would not be signing the Norquist pledge.
So we have a mixed group here, older and younger, fresh faces and long-time residents of Capitol Hill, all expressing reservations or outright hostility to Grover Norquist and his war against revenue. Norquist may want to “shrink [government] down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub” but clearly, not everyone feels that way.
Republicans aren’t going to go as far as Democratic state senate candidate for Maine, Colleen Lachowicz, who said back in 2005 that she wanted to drown Grover Norquist in her bathtub, but there is clearly trouble on the horizon for the man who would be king (and nearly has been for two decades), the man the Nation once described as “a thumb-in-the-eye radical rightist.”
The first step has been taken and it is likely these few Republicans will not long remain alone. There used to be an anti-revenue wall; it became a fence and some sat on it. But the fence is much lower now and it will be easier for others to leap over.
This is all good news for Democrats and for Barack Obama, who, after all, has a country to run. He has been pursuing this duty almost alone now since 2010. Republicans and Democrats are miles apart on many issues, and there is a new crop of Democrats on Capitol Hill now who will not as easily surrender to Republican ideology. Republicans may well rue the day they lined up with Norquist and thumbed their noses at our president.
Take that, Tea Party. America survived despite your best efforts to destroy it.
Update [10:33] Added Norquist interview with Soledad O’Brien