Today, the 12-member congressional super committee is expected to announce failure to reach an agreement to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal budget. One of major “sticking divides,” as Democratic co-chair Sen. Patty Murray (WA) noted, has been Republicans refusal to consider a widely supported tax increase on America’s wealthy.
This intransigence is largely motivated by the shadowy influence of lobbyist Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, who threatens to serve any Republican who breaks his anti-tax pledge with electoral defeat. Today on CNN, super committee member Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) noted that Norquist’s handcuffs on his GOP colleagues essentially makes him the “13th member of this committee without being there”:
KERRY: We Democrats put a $4 trillion dollar plan on the table. We had $1.3 trillion of cuts, and we had $1.3 trillion in revenue. Now, some of that revenue, we’re not asking that to happen tomorrow or the next day, it could happen in a year. This is a ten-year plan and longer. So we have the ability here to do something that’s fair for all Americans. But unfortunately, this thing about the Bush tax cuts and the pledge to Grover Norquist keeps coming up. Grover Norquist has been the 13th member of this committee without being there. I can’t tell you how many times we hear about ‘the pledge, the pledge.’ Well all of us took a pledge to uphold the Constitution and to full and faithfully and well-execute our duties and I think that requires us to try and reach an agreement. So we have to compromise.
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Despite Norquist’s desire to “crush the other team,” it seems that more and more members of his own team are starting to agree with Kerry. GOP Rep. Mike Simpson (ID) said regarding Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, “I didn’t know I was signing a marriage agreement.” Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) blasted Norquist for “paralyzing Congress.” Freshman Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) vowed to never sign another pledge, noting the last straw came when Norquist wouldn’t let Republicans close tax loopholes that subsidize ethanol production. Former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson simply said, “If Grover Norquist is the most powerful person in America, he should run for president rather than peddle his influence backstage.”