Anti-tax man Norquist defiant at "fiscal cliff" edge

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Prominent American anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist on Monday insisted that his movement was as strong as ever and that Congress would withstand pressure to raise taxes even if more Republican lawmakers are spurning his anti-tax pledge.

A vast majority of elected Republicans have signed Norquist's "taxpayer protection pledge," launched in 1986, which commits them to voting against tax increases, and it became a sort of litmus test among U.S. conservatives.

But the new House of Representatives, which takes office in January, has 16 Republicans who so far have not signed the pledge, up from six in the outgoing Congress. One new Republican senator, Jeff Flake, also has not signed.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Washington event, Norquist told Reuters: "People don't always take the pledge first when they run. A lot take it after they have been there for a while. The pledge isn't the only vehicle for stopping tax increases."

At the event, sponsored by the nonpartisan Center for the National Interest think tank where Norquist is a board member, he predicted House Republicans would withstand pressure from Democratic President Barack Obama to raise taxes.

Obama won re-election this month on a promise to raise tax rates on the wealthiest households while extending low tax rates for most other taxpayers down the income ladder.

He and Congress are trying to keep the country from falling off the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of the year when some $500 billion in tax cuts will expire and another $100 billion in automatic budget cuts will kick in.

Democrats gained seats in the both the 100-member Senate and the 435-member House with some Republicans softening their opposition to raising new tax revenue.

Though Republicans were stung by their electoral losses, Norquist said they can force Obama to compromise on tax increases and spending cuts by using the debt ceiling as leverage.

"The debt limit is an additional tool to explain to Obama that he is not the king," Norquist said. "He has to go to Congress for resources."

The U.S. Treasury Department has said it will have enough funds to avoid the ceiling until near the end of the year, and experts say they can use accounting maneuvers to delay the limit beyond that.

Some Republicans have assailed Norquist for his intransigence on tax increases. Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission, last week lambasted Republican supporters of the anti-tax pledge.

"What can Grover (Norquist) do to you? He can't murder you. He can't burn your house," Simpson said at an event hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, an anti-budget deficit group.

(Editing by Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman)

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CNY  |  November, 21, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Heard an interview today with Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna Insurance and just read an article featuring Bill Gross, the very successful manager of PIMCO funds. Both said that the Federal deficit cannot be practically solved by spending cuts alone, increased revenue would be essential. Both also said changes to popular "entitlements" and military spending would have to happen. Both recognized that they would have to pay higher taxes personally but were OK with that. Bertolini said most people he knew in similar positions to his felt paying more taxes was not good but in the long run not solving the deficit would be much worse . When compared to these guys, "Who the Hell is Grover Norquist?"(George H W Bush)? I am glad to say our Congressman, Richard Hanna(R-NY) a successful CNY businessman has not signed the Norquist pledge. Any good farmer knows you can never say never, you can't be sure of what the future will necessitate.

Richard Sloat    
NYC  |  November, 21, 2012 at 02:57 PM

Norquist's "pledge'" has hurt our country, by rigidly sticking to a one size fits all mentality that kills compromise. Like it or not compromise is the mature way to govern in a democracy or else you end up with our do nothing Congress. No thoughtful legislation, more debt, and the mess they are dealing with now. My "Taking the Tea Party Republican Tax Pledge" is on YouTube link;

SD  |  November, 21, 2012 at 04:56 PM

You have to look at which version of the tax code is the basis for such a pledge. In 2011 a single person with 2 kids under age 16, making $16,000/year ($8.00/hr) received a refund of $7,062 having paid no withholding. The exact same circumstances in 2001 created a refund of $3,990. Our tax and entitlement system today creates medocrity. We can't find people willing to work in our dairy for $11.61/hr plus health benefits, retirement and housing provided. (H2A regs). We need a system which doesn't penalize earning, either on the low or the high end of the spectrum. The best system is he lowest possible rate on the largest possible taxable base. The tax gap today is $450 b/year. Our system does not work. Our tax system is part of a larger system to re-distribute wealth (or buy votes) depending on your point of view. Our forefathers had to work to eat but that is far from the truth today. Until we return to that model, we won't balance a budget. We've put America's burden on too few shoulders and the mounting debt is too large a burden to bear.

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