Conservative activist Grover Norquist, who invented the “anti-tax increase” tax pledge embraced by Republicans, tells Newsmax that he is convinced Democrats plan to torpedo any possible deal in the supercommittee to further the re-election plans of President Barack Obama.
The Obama campaign's "narrative has got to be the Republican Congress is the problem,” Norquist said in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. “Therefore, I believe the Democrats will sink the supercommittee in order to say that the Republicans were unreasonable.”
Pressure is mounting for both parties to settle on a plan by the end of the week so the committee can vote by its Nov. 23 deadline. Failure to enact a debt-cutting plan of at least $1.2 trillion this year would force $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts beginning in 2013.
Democrats oppose reductions in entitlement programs such as Medicare, as Republicans seek, unless Republicans agree to large increases in tax revenue. Democrats on the supercommittee are weighing whether to reduce their demand for new tax revenue to about $800 billion, a Democratic aide told Bloomberg News this week.
Last week, Democrats proposed a plan that would include $1 trillion in new revenue, $1 trillion in spending cuts and $300 billion from interest savings. The spending cuts in any new proposal also would be smaller, a second Democratic aide told Bloomberg, without giving an amount.
Some lawmakers had hailed Republicans’ proposal last week for $300 billion in tax increases as a breakthrough demonstrating new support in the party for higher taxes. Talks stalled after Democrats rejected the plan.
Norquist, the Harvard-educated president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), says America’s difficult economic situation has only worsened under Obama’s leadership.
So Obama "can’t with a straight face say everything was going fine until Republicans took over and stopped letting him do what he wanted to do," Norquist said. "Everything was going to Hades up until the Republicans took over and they’ve improved a little bit since then actually.”
Norquist started soliciting signers to the no-tax-increase pledge from state capitols to Capitol Hill in 1986 with the passage of the landmark Tax Reform Act. ATR has signatures from 238 House members, 41 Senators, 13 governors, and all of the GOP presidential candidates except former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.
Even as the national debt hit an all-time high of $15 trillion and continued rising Wednesday, most Americans also were skeptical that the congressional supercommittee could reach a deficit reduction agreement by its Thanksgiving eve deadline.
“The Republicans could dance around naked and throw flowers out at them (Democrats) — and promise them their first born — and they would still reject it and vote no,” Norquist said of supercommittee Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blames the no-tax hike pledge for stymying progress in the supercommittee, which does not sit well with Norquist.
“Harry Reid wants to raise taxes rather than reduce spending,” Norquist declares. “The taxpayer protection pledge that most members of the House of Representatives have signed, and 40 Republican senators have signed, is a commitment by the congressmen and the senators to their voters that they won’t raise taxes. It’s an important commitment and Harry Reid finds that commitment to voters to get in the way of his plans to trick the Republicans into raising taxes rather than cutting spending.”
A failure of the 12-member supercommittee to reach an agreement by Nov. 23 would trigger an automatic $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts starting in 2013, evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending.
To the average American, the $1.2 trillion in cuts would have little or no impact but would be the equivalent of $60 billion a year in reductions over 10 years.
“It is a fraction of a fraction,” Norquist says of total government spending. “Now, are there more elegant ways to cut spending then simply across the board? Absolutely, but I’d rather cut spending $1.2 trillion across the board than not cut it at all. I’d certainly rather do that than raise taxes.”
Although some Republicans have made overtures to suggest that they would be willing to extend an olive branch to Democrats in the form of targeting certain tax breaks for millionaires and considering new net tax revenues, Norquist fully expects Republicans to keep their no-tax pledge.
“These are public promises not private promises,” Norquist insists. “I think it would be difficult to imagine a Republican House of Representatives voting to enact a tax, not just voting for a tax increase. Every dollar of tax increase would be enacted in order to avoid reducing spending so you would have to actively say, ‘let me undermine the effort to reduce spending’ in order to increase taxes. I don’t know how many votes there are for that.”
Republicans have been “showing a little ankle on taxes in order to get radical tax reform,” Norquist says, but such overtures have been soundly rejected by Democrats, who want to raise takes by $1 trillion, increase spending, and count the expected savings from pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq in their total.
“Now present plans by the government are not to occupy Iraq for the next decade so that’s hardly a real reduction in spending,” Norquist says. “Since the Democrats’ position is so radically out of line with anything that Republicans could support, I don’t think we’re going to have an agreement.”
Norquist also says that he would not support any deal to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent if it provides a net increase in taxes.
While some Republicans may have seemed “unreasonably open” to a tax increase, Norquist says Republicans ultimately must know that their Democratic colleagues are not truly open to reaching consensus within the supercommittee.
“I find it a little hard to get in my heart mad at the Republicans for showing a little ankle when they know that this is a Kabuki operation because the Democrats plan to run out of the room screaming that they were mistreated,” he says. “You could make them tea and they’d run out of the room saying that you were beating them to death.”
Norquist also broke ranks with Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn on the issue of a possible new form of alternative minimum tax for taxpayers earning more than $1 million per year.
“Coburn’s plan is one for dramatic tax increases indefinitely into the future even though he would tell you, ‘I’m just going to kill this fly with the dynamite. It won’t affect anybody else in the building.’”
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