Norquist Defends Boehner in Debt Battle: He’s a Man of His Word

Monday, 18 Jul 2011 12:01 PM

By David A. Patten

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Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist offered a staunch defense of House Speaker John Boehner Monday morning on MSNBC’s "Daily Rundown" program, telling host Chuck Todd that Boehner “personally is committed” to opposing any new taxes.

Todd probed several times to determine whether there is any schism between Norquist and Boehner, asking if he’s worried Boehner might strike a “grand bargain” with the president. Such a deal would cut spending up to $4 trillion and constrain Social Security outlays in return for an increase in federal revenues.

Norquist replied: “No, because Speaker Boehner . . . has taken the pledge and always kept it. As a congressman, he leads a caucus in the House of Representatives where all but six Republicans have made the commitment in writing to never raise taxes. He knows he leads a Republican Party that’s not going to lead taxes, and that he personally is committed to that as well.”

Countered Todd: “If [Boehner] signed onto some sort of grand bargain that included some sort of revenue increase . . . what would you do?”

Norquist’s response: “He would not sign onto a deal that raises taxes. He’s said it a hundred times. I know some people keep asking in different ways.

“Advocates of more spending keep asking Republicans whether they might be open to a tax increase, the way a teen age boy keeps asking the same question on a prom date,” said Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. “But the answer is no. No! No!”

Other highlights from the interview:

  • Norquist conceded that in several states that have adopted a balanced budget amendment, legislators have compensated for the lack of additional state income taxes by raising fees. “That’s why you need one of two things: A governor and a legislator who signed the pledge, or a constitutional amendment that requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes, and doesn’t simply allow you to get around the balanced budget because there’s an ‘emergency,’” he said.
  • Norquist said he favors tax reform to close loopholes and lower rates — as long as reform doesn’t result in a net increase of revenues flowing to government.
  • Reducing the size of government is even more important than reducing the national debt, he said, and called federal spending “the deadweight cost of government.”
  • Raising taxes will only encourage more federal spending, Norquist added: “Raising taxes is what President Obama and other Democrats do instead of cutting spending. They say, ‘We don’t have to cut spending, we can raise taxes.’”

GOP Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, meanwhile, reportedly are close to putting the finishing touches on a compromise debt-ceiling proposal that they believe could pass muster in the Senate.

It would use a complex legislative maneuver to grant the president authority to raise the debt-ceiling, unless a two-thirds majority in both chambers voted to stop a debt-ceiling increase. From a GOP perspective, the goal would be to put the responsibility for increasing the national debt on the president’s shoulders, while avoiding a government shutdown that, at the very least, would rattle financial markets.

In effect, the McConnell-Reid deal would give Obama de facto power to raise the debt ceiling up to $2.5 trillion in three sections or “tranches.” But it would have to include substantial, near-term spending cuts to even have a chance of passing in the House of Representatives. Even then, many House Republicans insist they won’t vote for any debt-ceiling increase that doesn’t include a balanced-budget amendment, which Democrats refuse to go along with.

Also Monday, GOP Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is expected to unveil his own debt-ceiling plan. Coburn says his proposal would use a combination of tax reforms, defense department cuts, and entitlement-spending constraints to save $9 trillion over the next decade.

Speaking on CBS's "Face The Nation" Sunday morning, Coburn said: "We can increase revenues by adjusting the tax code and lowering it. We can save over $1 trillion doing that."

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