Democrats pounce on Norquist visit to Capitol Hill
June 21st, 2012
07:12 PM ET
3 years ago

Democrats pounce on Norquist visit to Capitol Hill

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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Filed under: 2012 • Grover Norquist • House of Representatives • Republicans
soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. John

    Just how much Is this group and Grover Norquist are paying these Republican to do what he what. And It seem that all the Money Billionaire and Millionaire are trowing at Mitt Romney ,so I guess that these people are just buying the Republican Party.

    June 21, 2012 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  2. Indy

    He or she who signs or has signed the Norquist pledge needs to lose thier job,plain and simple. This pledge was not from the people,it is from a person who thinks that he speaks for everyone. All that have signed this pledge need to be voted out and they can move to another country, becuase this pledge is as anti American and anti the majority that is has no place in politics.

    June 21, 2012 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  3. Iamnotfooled

    Mitt Romney has signed the Pledge. One more reason not to vote for him. Grover said its for the American People, what about the majority who say we have to cut spending and raise taxes? Don't we count? Grover is the Problem.

    June 21, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  4. Indy

    "Giving this government more revenue would be like giving a cocaine addict who wants to quit more cocaine," Boehner said.

    Giving the Whitehouse back to Republicans would be like giving a crack addict the keys back to the house they destroyed at the expense of every American and the damage was so extensive it will not be fully recovered until 2024.

    June 21, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  5. k

    Republicans! Pledge your Allegiance to your Country! All of you have lost my vote forever!

    June 21, 2012 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  6. VicMorrow

    "Read my lips, no new taxes." Breaking that pledge caused Bush Sr to lose re-election. No one who wants to be re-elected is going to make that mistake again.

    June 21, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  7. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    This isn't a good American. He is increasing the partisan level in the government which makes it harder to get the people's work done in the House and Senate. This distorts what what needs to get done.

    June 21, 2012 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  8. California

    Yet democrats ignore the communists that go to the White House.

    Simply amazing.

    June 21, 2012 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  9. judy

    the republican party is made up a bunch of sheep Norquist is the leader. Vote all repos out.

    June 21, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  10. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Norquist is a dangerous man to whom many republicans have pledged their soul. Grover Norquist should have went to prison with his long time partner in crime, Jack Abramoff.

    June 22, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  11. georgewashington

    The Republicans were perfectly willing to feed the drug addict when Bush was in the White House orchestrating the financial meltdown.

    June 22, 2012 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  12. Jean2

    This is the most appalling display of abuse of our system of democracy that can be imagined. This one man can have many memberas of the Republican Party bow at his feet.
    I have voted and partispated in the political process for 40 years hoping that I could make a difference or at least have a voice.
    This man comes to congress and our elected officials bow to him. Even if people agree with him we are all being cheated!!

    June 22, 2012 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  13. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Well Harry, all you have to do is bring the budget to the Senate floor. Then we will see who has who in whose hand.It isn't Grover Norquist, it is the people that is rejecting your adjenda. However you can prove the people wrong, just bring the budget to the floor. After 3 years your excuses are getting old.

    June 22, 2012 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  14. kalo

    Uh...He obviously does not know how they ween people off drugs; you don't just stop someone cold turkey on hard drugs that is usually more harmful. Then again, never expected congress to do any research on what they do or say....Even a socialist take over has a higher approval rating than them.

    June 22, 2012 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  15. Chris

    Any politician who signs such a pledge should be considered a violation of their Oath of Office and an act of treason. Congressmen and Senators are meant to be public servants who serve the people, not behold to an unelected lobbyist.

    June 22, 2012 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  16. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    The unhinged GOBP are out of control. Americans will turn them into the 2012 Whig party on November 6 despite their desperate laws to stop voting.

    June 22, 2012 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  17. TomInRochNY

    Could this actually be a spark of sanity in the GOP? Could they actually be reverting to the former selves? Could we actually be getting a real conservative party again? Nah!

    June 22, 2012 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  18. Craig M

    I have been a Republican for life and it is people like Grover Norquist that need to go hide in a comode somewhere. He brings a divise message and he DOES not speak for Middle Class America but only for Wall Stree and the robber barons who brought America to her knees along with crokked politicians in both the Democratic and Republican parties who are the leaders of both parties on Capital Hill along with both leaders of the two national committees!!!! Clean them all out including the likes of Grover Norquist, Harry Reid, Nancy PPelosi, Mictch McConnel, and John Boehner!!!

    June 22, 2012 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  19. Brandy

    The American people did not hire Norquist, this so called pledge GOP signed is destroying this country.

    June 22, 2012 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  20. King

    norquist is making sure his troops that had sold their souls to him over the American people, keep in line. china is paying its citizen minimum wages and using the savings to modernize and take over American slot as the soul super power, as the repubs give tax break to the rich to build their country for them.

    June 22, 2012 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  21. wgf

    "The pledge is not to me. The pledge is to the American people,"

    Norquist's pledge is a pledge to not cooperate and to obstruct. It is a pledge to hold one singular view above all others. It says that in all cases there is only one overriding factor that needs to be considered. It is naive and childish, as one might expect from a pledge that was originally dreamed up by a teenager. That the Republicans choose to embrace it indicates that the Republicans prefer the naive and childish.

    June 22, 2012 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  22. Anonymous

    Lackey's for the elites swear by Norquist's pledge to the billionairs funding him, which Americans have taken notice and will be out in November.

    June 22, 2012 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  23. don

    Ideology above all for this congress. America second.

    June 22, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  24. Wake up people

    Why do you say the democrats pounced?? Cnn your bias is showing AGAIN. Looks to me like the GOP was holding court, knowing they have allowed this man to buy the Presidency. It's a shame they show this outsider more respect than the POTUS.

    OBAMA 2012!

    June 22, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  25. GonzoinHouston

    "I pledge allegiance to Grover Norquist, and the Untidy State of Fox media. And to Mister Romney, wherever he stands, One party, under Christianity, incomprehensible, with poverty and just debt for all". – New GOP pledge.

    June 22, 2012 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
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