With time once again running out to avoid $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts, conservative activist Grover Norquist, who invented the “anti-tax increase” tax pledge embraced by Republicans, tells Newsmax TV's Steve Malzberg that conservative legislators should allow the cuts to proceed barring an 11th-hour shift in the president’s negotiating tactics.
“The president has put exactly nothing on the table with the exception of sequestration, which is the law of the land,” said Norquist, appearing Wednesday on “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV in New York.
“The sequester is going to take effect because Obama has no interest in managing spending restraint more artfully than the sequester and his idea of replacing or delaying the sequester is a complete nonstarter,” said Norquist.
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On Tuesday, Obama urged Congress to postpone the across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to begin on March 1 to avoid what he described as “real and lasting impacts” on U.S. economic growth.
He urged lawmakers to instead act on a smaller package of spending cuts and changes to the tax code that would increase revenue, such as limiting tax breaks, to replace part of the $1.2 trillion sequestration.
Norquist dismissed the president’s plea as disingenuous.
“Sequestration is a fine way to cut the budget from Obama’s overspending,” Norquist asserted. “Now the president hoped that Republicans were so scared by the idea of nicking the Pentagon’s budget that when push came to shove — when we came to the time for sequestration to start — the Republicans would come and beg him, ‘Oh please, let’s do something other than reduce any military spending at all.’”
Republican leaders have also said they expect the spending cuts to take effect, partly because they won’t agree to new revenue measures that Obama and some other Democrats have said they want.
Norquist believes that sequestration is all but inevitable.
“It will begin. It will last 10 years. It will be good for the economy. It will be very helpful,” he predicted. “Are there alternative ways to save that same amount of money? Sure, and I know the Republicans will put those forward. Do I believe for a moment that the president will entertain those? No.”
While the cuts will be particularly hard on the military, Norquist said that Republicans know “better than anyone else” that a lot of money can be saved at the Pentagon.
“Defense is an important thing for the government to do but it’s important not to waste money, so budget cuts are a good idea,” he said. “We need to do them as gracefully and as artfully and as thoughtfully as possible.”
The Harvard-educated president of Americans for Tax Reform 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.
Norquist acknowledges that there could be a better alternative to sequestration if Democrats would be open to compromise.
“Sequestration is a little bit of a meat-ax approach, which is why Republicans several times, twice now, passed alternative savings for the same dollar amount, if you wanted to look at doing it slightly differently,” observed Norquist. “The Republicans are committed to saving $1.2 trillion of the president’s overspending over the next 10 years. The Republicans are open to saving it different ways.”
He believes that the president’s focus on tax loopholes is yet another example of class warfare, but one that would not simply affect wealthy Americans.
“Your home mortgage — interest on your home mortgage — the state and local taxes, the property taxes that people deduct from their income, when they pay their income taxes, charitable contributions,” he explained. “Those are the big ones. That’s what the president’s talking about. He’s not talking about corporate jets or something like that.”
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Congress created the automatic cuts in August 2011 as part of an agreement to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. They were set to begin in January, though Congress delayed them for two months in a Jan. 1 measure that let tax rates rise on top earners’ income.
Norquist added that if Democrats want to avoid the automatic cuts, they should push through an alternative in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
“This is a law that’s passed. You want to alter this law, you write something down in legislative language. You get 51 or 60 Democrats in the Senate to vote for it,” admonished Norquist. “Don’t come and talk to us about essays written — a haiku about what might be. Write it down, pass it in the Senate, then we could look at it.”
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.
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