The left wants America to fear Grover Norquist. The mild-mannered anti-tax activist has angered Democrats by getting in the way of their plans to expand the size and scope of government. Liberals want to drive a wedge between him and Republican legislators in the hopes they'll renege on their pledge not to raise taxes.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went off on Mr. Norquist Tuesday after House Republicans announced legislation extending existing tax rates for a year. President Obama and the Democratic leadership prefer to impose tax hikes on upper-income individuals and small businesses in January.
"Grover Norquist is the only Republican leader who can truthfully say he has the entire Republican Party in the palm of his hand," said the Nevada Democrat. "Grover has his control in writing." He was referring to the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" which has kept Republicans from going along with such tax hikes since 1986.
"Nobody promised Grover anything," Mr. Norquist responded in an interview with The Washington Times. "Only Harry Reid and some in the press who read his press releases as fact say that. The pledge is to the voters." Candidates have signed the ATR pledge and vowed to oppose an increase in marginal income tax rates for individuals or businesses and to oppose elimination of deductions and credits not matched dollar-for-dollar by a reduction in overall rates.
Signers include 236 House members, 41 senators, 1,300 state legislators, 13 governors and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Despite reports of the pledge's demise, more challengers for House seats signed by June 2012 than did in the Tea Party electoral sweep of 2010.
Mr. Norquist will meet Thursday afternoon with House members and staff at the invitation of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan. The event was planned long ago as a way to help newer members learn how the general principles of their promise applies to the more complicated tax reform legislation this year and efforts to prevent Taxmaggedon. It's being spun by Democratic operatives as if it were convened for Mr. Norquist to scare wayward Republicans on taxes.
A similar thing happened earlier this month when Jeb Bush said on Capitol Hill that he would support the hypothetical "grand bargain" of 10 dollars in spending cuts for every dollar of new taxes, and that he didn't need to sign the tax- cutting pledge. Mr. Bush wouldn't be able to anyway, as the former Florida governor says he's not running for political office.
Still, some took this as a challenge to the Republican tax platform. Party leaders quickly stomped out the brush fire. Mr. Romney, popular Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker all rejected talk of any "deficit reduction" deal that included collection of more revenue.
The Democratic machine is in overdrive trying to convince the public that the only thing standing between $1 trillion deficits and a balanced budget is Mr. Norquist. He insists the campaign against him won't succeed, saying, "unless Democrats can figure out how to get the 236 House members to break their word to the voters, they'll never get a tax increase to pay for Obama's higher spending." Democrats fail to grasp that the GOP won't raise taxes on principle, not because they fear one activist.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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