Things don't look so good for Grover Norquist right now. The super-influential lobbyist, the man who created the anti-tax pledge and held the whip hand for Republicans in federal budget negotiations is facing some snarl and snap from normally faithful lapdogs.
There was a time --hell, it was just last year! --when no Republican congressperson would dare suggest that he or she might consider raising revenue as a means of addressing the federal deficit. To do so, would be to invoke the wrath of Grover and his multimillion dollar Americans for Tax Reform lobby. Any Republican who went off the Norquist reservation could look forward to a primary challenger and a huge money bomb in negative advertising when it came time for reelection.
But in the wake of President Obama's November victory--a development that seems to have caught Republicans flat-footed --some in the GOP are making noises like they are willing to give on the revenue issue.
Check these quotes:
- "We are so far in debt that if you don't give up some ideological ground, the country sinks." --Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC
- "[W]e’ve got to deal with the crisis we face. We’ve got to deal with the political reality of the president’s victory.” -Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL
- "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 [Norquist] about that." --Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-GA (I know, I know. Patriotic sanctimony from a poltroon like Saxby Chambliss is hard to endure, but the statement illustrates my point.)
Up to now, Grover Norquist has enjoyed nothing but dogmatic support in his drive to "drown the federal government in the bathtub." But as the above statements reveal, the times they are a-changin'.
Grover has been on teevee stating that he's not worried. He claims to believe that, when push comes to shove, his Republican minions will fall into line. And he may be right. Fear is what motivates Republicans, and they're a craven lot.
But they're in a very tight spot. Hearken back to December, 2010. In the lame duck session of congress that followed the sweeping GOP victory of the mid-term election, the President struck a deal with Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on taxes. Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for all income levels for 2 years in exchange for other legislative goals.
Well, at the end of this year, if Congress does not act, the Bush tax cuts will expire. The President wants an extension for middle and lower incomes, but has vowed to veto any legislation that extends the tax breaks for upper incomes (those making $250K or more).
This puts Republicans in an untenable position. If they hold the line, as Grover Norquist demands, the tax cuts expire and everyone (lower and middle incomes as well as plutocrats) gets an increase in taxes. The President can then follow up in the new congress with a bill to lower taxes for the middle class and dare Republicans to oppose it. None of them want to do that. But if the Republicans concede the upper income tax breaks and pass a partial extension, Grover Norquist goes apoplectic and the GOP blood-letting begins.
It's a no-win sitch for Republicans and they've brought it upon themselves. No matter how it goes, somebody is going to have to walk the plank. Who will it be? Grover Norquist? Mitch McConnell? John Boehner? Eric Cantor?
No one knows for sure. But as far as I'm concerned, the more the merrier!