WASHINGTON — Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist is on a mission: He wants Democrats to “switch sides” and join Republicans in taking his pledge not to raise taxes.
Norquist was his usual no-holds-barred self Wednesday at a Washington, D.C. breakfast hosted by the news website Politico. “If Democrats switch sides,” he said, “we’ll argue about trees or something else –- that’s my goal.”
He did not provide specifics on a plan to nudge Democrats toward embracing his views.
As fiscal cliff discussions on Capitol Hill heat up, several prominent Republican lawmakers have hinted they might defect from the no-new-taxes pledge, which dates back to 1986.
“We’re not going over the cliff,” Norquist said.
He insisted that he’s not backing down –- and he expects the members of Congress who have taken the pledge to stand by it.
“In my mind, it’s for as long as you’re a congressman,” Norquist said. “How long are you pro-choice or pro-life?”
When asked about the Republican members of Congress who are reportedly considering breaking the pledge, Norquist only mentioned one name.
“The same six guys, the Republicans, are the same people they brought around two years ago saying the same thing and they didn’t raise taxes, of course. I don’t want to be too rough on Saxby Chambliss, who’s never voted for a tax increase. He’s just thought about it.”
Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss signed the pledge, and hinted last week that he might disavow it for the good of the country.
According to Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, 92 members of the House of Representatives and Senate have signed the pledge, including nearly all Republicans.
President George H. W. Bush was the first president to sign the pledge, and the first to break it.
“Bush couldn’t win again in ’92 successfully because he had his fingerprints on a very bad deal which was bad on spending and bad on taxes.”
Norquist said Republicans cannot have their “fingerprints on the murder weapon” if they expect to win elections, arguing that Bush “gave up his presidency” when he allowed a tax increase in 1990.
He added that the only other two tax increases since the creation of his pledge have not included Republicans – the 1993 increase was all Democratic votes and 2009 was President Barack Obama’s “Obamacare.”
The fiscal cliff talks continue this week.
Senate leaders quibbled Tuesday about how both parties need to come together and find a solution. Meanwhile, Obama is meeting Wednesday afternoon with top business leaders, as well as selected middle class Americans, to discuss the ways the country can avoid going over the cliff.