Rep. Fleming chides GOP colleagues for caving on taxes

Matthew Boyle | Investigative Reporter

Thursday, Republican Rep. John Fleming spoke out against Republicans in both the House and Senate who are caving to Democrats on tax policy amid the ongoing fiscal cliff fight.

“Republicans must stop putting tax increases on the fiscal cliff negotiating table, and start demanding that Democrats put forth serious proposals to reduce spending,” Fleming said in a Thursday statement. “So far Democrats have offered nothing specific. Vague numbers, illusory cuts that are years away, and useless rhetoric about raising taxes will not make a dent in the fact that we are headed for a fifth straight year of trillion dollar annual deficits. Our national debt has skyrocketed by more than $5.5 trillion since President Obama took office, and all we’re getting from the White House is another campaign for tax increases that will pay for just over a week’s worth of our federal government.”

“It is foolish for Republicans to continue opening the door to job-killing tax hikes while Democrats refuse to explain how they propose to reform mandatory spending – mostly entitlements – that makes up almost two-thirds of the federal budget,” Fleming added. “I’ve heard enough of Democrats claiming a balanced approach. This is more of the same tax-and-spend gamesmanship that has pushed our national debt to $16.3 trillion, just below the debt limit that the president wants us to raise yet again. There is no ground on which House Republican leaders should compromise until Democrats are finally ready to give up their spending addiction.”

Since the election, some Republicans have flipped and flopped over tax policy and other issues, including Obamacare, immigration reform and federal government spending.

Fleming is emerging as one of the more conservative leaders in the House GOP caucus after President Barack Obama won his re-election: He was also a vocal critic when Speaker of the House John Boehner backed down on taxes and immigration reform in a post-election interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer.

On Thursday, New York Republican Rep. Chris Gibson backed off the American for Tax Reform (ATR) pledge he previously signed promising he wouldn’t vote for increasing taxes. Gibson’s spokeswoman justified the move by saying the congressman signed the pledge before he was redistricted to represent his current constituents.

The vast majority of congressional Republicans have signed the ATR pledge, which is a promise that they won’t ever vote to increase marginal income tax rates. The pledge also bars signers from eliminating tax deductions and credits unless those eliminations are matched dollar for dollar with tax rate cuts. ATR President Grover Norquist rolled out the pledge in 1986 with the support of President Ronald Reagan.

GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia both publicly said they’d break the pledge too.

“I’m willing to generate revenue,” Graham said on ABC News earlier this week. “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,” Graham added, saying he would “violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country.”

Chambliss said in an interview with a local television station that he “care[s] more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.”

“If we do it his [Norquist’s] way, then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that,” Chambliss said.

Conservative activists have begun to speak out against politicians breaking the pledge.

Conservative activist Phil Kerpen, the president of American Commitment, came out against Graham and Chambliss on Thursday asking them in public letters to honor their pledges.

“Washington, D.C. has a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” Kerpen said in a press statement accompanying the letters. “Senator Chambliss and Senator Graham have an obligation to honor their commitment to taxpayers by opposing all efforts to raise taxes, and seek a balanced budget by stopping reckless federal spending that is harming American families and our economy.”

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