Washington (CNN) - The person who Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calls "the most powerful man in Washington" - and who "has the entire Republican Party in the palm of his hand" - visited Capitol Hill Thursday for a briefing with House GOP members and their aides.
But even before anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist entered the ornate Ways and Means Committee hearing room to talk about tax reform on Thursday, Democrats pounced, saying his appearance proves the GOP is beholden to one man's uncompromising position against any tax increases. They also sought to highlight recent reports that Norquist may be losing some support among Republicans.
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Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich, appeared in the hallway outside the GOP session to criticize Republicans for "holding royal court for the person who single-mindedly is determined to prevent a balanced approach to deficit reduction."
Norquist was invited to brief House Republicans on the "pledge," a written oath his group, Americans for Tax Reform, urges candidates running for office to sign to show their constituents they will oppose any legislation that raises taxes.
Even though the vast majority - 238 - of House Republicans have already signed the pledge, Norquist told reporters the purpose of the meeting was to explain how the pledge fits into the debate Congress has begun on tax reform. But he also said it was a chance to respond to Democrats who he says are misrepresenting what it means.
"The pledge is not to me. The pledge is to the American people," Norquist emphasized repeatedly to the throng of television cameras and reporters waiting outside the meeting.
After the meeting Norquist responded directly, and in very personal terms, to Reid, saying of the top Senate Democrat is, "flailing around, he wants to have an argument with me. I'm not running for office, his Senators are and he's making them march off the tax increase, big spending cliff with him and the modern Democratic Party along with Obama."
He referred to Reid at one time as "desperate" and at another time called him "scared."
Democrats argue the pledge is the single biggest reason they have been unable to get a bipartisan agreement to reduce the deficit and deal with the host of tax cuts that are expiring at the end of this year. Reid, who virtually never misses a chance when he speaks to reporters to mention Norquist, opened his press conference with top Senate leaders Thursday noting that Norquist was due to arrive across the Capitol.
"The leader of Republican party is up here today, on the Hill. But you may be surprised to learn that it's not Mitt Romney, it's not John Boehner, and it's not Mitch McConnell. You know who it is. It's Grover Norquist," Reid said.
Also seizing on the meeting, the House Democrats' campaign arm circulated press releases targeting 60 Republicans in competitive districts around the country saying they were aligned with Norquist.
One release singled out Maryland Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who faces a tough challenge in the Democratic-leaning state. "Rather than creating jobs and preventing student loan rates from doubling for 7 million families, today House Republicans like Congressman Bartlett are learning new ways to defend their indefensible pledge to protect subsidies for millionaires, Big Oil and companies that ship jobs overseas," Jesse Ferguson, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wrote.
Recently some Republicans have indicated they are open to breaking the pledge. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he could sign onto a deal that would trade ten dollars in spending cuts in return for one dollar in new revenue, a position that would violate the pledge.
Richard Tisei, the GOP candidate challenging Democratic Rep. John Tierney of Massachusetts recently told CNN he didn't plan to sign the pledge.
"If there are loopholes that could be closed, help pay down the deficit, I don't want to tie myself up in knots, I want the option of being able to do what needs to be done to help the country," Tisei said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer sought to highlight the divisions within the GOP on the pledge, saying the Norquist "blitz" on Thursday was "a sign of weaknesses."
"His relevance has been openly questioned for the first time lately and he's in full damage control," Schumer added.
But Norquist told reporters that more Republican candidates had signed the pledge this election cycle than in 2010, and cited GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's commitment to blocking any attempts to increase taxes.
House Republicans are drafting a bill the House will vote on next month that would extend the so-called "Bush-era" tax cuts that are expiring at the end of December for another year and lay out their plan to lower tax rates across the board.
Asked about some in his party who may be wavering on the pledge, House Speaker John Boehner restated his opposition to tax increases – comparing raising taxes to enabling a drug addict.
"Giving this government more revenue would be like giving a cocaine addict who wants to quit more cocaine," Boehner said.
But the Speaker, who failed to reach a deal last summer with President Barack Obama on a "grand bargain," which many conservative Republicans believe would have broken Norquist's pledge, also seemed to welcome more discussion among those in his party about "loophole closings" or 'tax increases," saying, "I hope they resolve it all actually."
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If you want services you must pay for them. If you want to live in Somalia where taxes are low and services don't exist – it will be cheap. If you want to kill Medicare and Social Security – vote Republican. If you want crappy schools – vote Republican. Don't want firefighters, police and teachers – vote Republican. Want no environmental controls and lots of cancer – vote Republican. The choice is clear.
"Giving this government more revenue would be like giving a cocaine addict who wants to quit more cocaine," Boehner said.
Ummm, no Mr. Speaker, giving this government more revenue would be like giving a part time job to a person who doesn't make enough money. IF you really want to look at cutting costs may I suggest taking a close hard look at the Pentagon? Why can't soldiers overseas drive their own vehicles around our bases instead of importing "civilian contractors" to make 35K+ for a 6 month stay just to do that? Or have the military prepare it's own meals, it worked in WW II, Korea, etc. Just wondering.
Oh, one more thing – If Mr. Norquist is so interested in helping the American people and believes his views are the best way to help, why doesn't he run for office himself?
Surprise,. I seem to have missed an election somewhere......just what office does Grover Norquist hold in this administration??? Since when have people of his ilk been invited to Capitol hill to a meeting with HOUSE members?????
If he is the most "powerful man in Washington" then lets give him the " go ahead to straighten up our problems and get this old country into working order.......OH!...I forgot...He's a repub, buddie and they are aiming in a different direction...
this pledge to norquist sure makes a mockery of democracy
"The Pledge" (sounds important, huh) IS to Grover...because it's what he wants. It puts him on a pedestal and that's exactly what he wants. It's good to be a king, I suppose, but I can't believe they let him get away with that nonsense. It's like he will set dogs onto public officials (who people voted for) if they don't pay homage to him. "Oh rich and powerful Grover, please don't strip away our voters". What a ridiculous hold on people this man has.
Is this nation for SALE???? Republicans are becoming WORST than THUGS. It is unfortunate not to have Educated people in this Nation. Obama, please push education I mean university education.
Republicans have no mind of their own. They have been brought by special interest groups. This party needs to be defeated in November. Even the NRA now has a scoring card on the Republicans about guns. They will campaign against any politicans that does not go by their gun rights line. What is this nation coming too a few that run the nation with the Republicans as their tools. Republicans are showing us they have no brains, thinking power for themselves, but paid off by special interests. They don't care that the American people see this.
So why don't they have Grover Norquist meet with billionaire George Kaiser to discuss how Kaiser managed not to pay taxes to the Federal Government for many years and when Kaiser finally paid the amount was of around $11,000. It is said that Kaiser has great strategies for not paying taxes. I don't think Democrats would say no to Kaiser, afterall, he was one of Obama's fundraiser in his 2008 presidential campaign and the George Kaiser Foundation owned Solyndra. Kaiser is among the richest people in the world, maybe Obama could ask Kaiser to help us lower could lower our deficit????????? Sounds good to me.
Do you really mean that Boehner took some time out of his do nothing Speaker of the house to hold hands with Washingtons GOP Icon.This is the most disgraceful term for the House of Representatives in my 82 yrs on this earth.Romey is going to get beat by the biggest margin ever,the guy is boring ,does not answer questions and only wants to speak with nothing to say. This country has fallen a long way since the GOP years led us down this path.
The person who Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calls "the most powerful man in Washington"...
Not really, Grover Norquist is just the messenger. The real power? The American Voter. Accountability is coming. 138 days away. Tuesday, November 6th, Romney 2012.
I think this nation needs big revolt. The way republicans are acting will lead us all to that. These GOP animals better realize this.
The Republicans have allowed this man to rule the roost. They cowtow to him and sign onto his platform. When has someone who was not elected to any office been allowed to wield so much power? Will he be determining what goes on in Washington and will he have a role in a Romney presidency? That alone is reason to vote of anyone but those who sign his pledge.
The devil, himself, came to visit his legions on Capital Hill today. He was there to make sure all souls were present and accounted for. And that they were all on board to brief their new puppet and chief Romney the chicken hawk.
Nor quits you don't represent my views, I get I live in the best place in the world and don't mind paying taxes to keep it that way. Officials are elected to do the right thing not become beholden to some pledge concocted by a lobbyist, as an independent it's hard for me to vote republican these days Rush Limbough and Grover running the shots. These guys rubber stamp everything bush does and stonewall and disrespect the President. Wierd conspiracy theories and worst of all these odd immigration and womens right issues. hate to view politics like a football game and support a party over a
person, I think it's stupid but I don't see myself pulling that lever for any GOP folks. I'm only one person but I'm sending a signal to these guys
Arrest him and all the treasonous repubes who swore an oath to him.
The pledge is to Grover and his ideology. If the pledge was for the people it should be on the ballot. I do not agree with signing pledges especially when they are forced upon. We vote a person to represent us not special interests.
Grover should not be allowed such access either! I can't even speak to my local congressman nor does he hold any townhalls – yes he is republican.
Obviously they all left their spines home.This guy wasn't elected to anything.These are adult men and women?How embarrassing!
His claimed power is because everyone let him. He is stupid and aggressive in destroying this nation. He has now constinuents, only the tea baggers. In any other country this man will be spit out, and throw to jail. A self crown dictator, worship by the tea baggers.
His claimed power is because everyone let him. He is stupid and aggressive in destroying the democracy of this nation. He has now constinuents, only the tea baggers. In any other country this man will be spit out, and throw to jail. A self crown dictator, worship by the tea baggers. Everyone should call him out everytime he tries to corrupt another elected official.
Today republicans have interacted by Norquist, we will hear tomorrow everyone mumbling the talking point provided by their master. Whenever, I turn on a TV or a radio they repeat the same word over and over again. I guess is easier for them to speak the same tired words when they have only one boss. I really wonder if there is any sensible republicans are left out there, how can they keep quite when they see this theater unfolding in front of them?
The pledge is not to the American people, the pledge is to Grover Norquist.
That's where those sights need to be pointed. Anyone that pledges to him should be thrown out
They pledge to work for US - we pay them.
Grover, the pledge is to you and not to the American people. The majority of the American people think that raising revenue to help cut the deficeit is the way to go,
How can our representatives serve the people and the good of the country when they have taken an oath to one man – Norquist.
It's time to kick out the GOPTEA and replace them whe pro-Americans....not pro-Norquist.
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America!! Plain and simple. Not to a guy named after a Sesame Street Character.