Sen. Chambliss brings tax pledge debate outside beltway
December 1st, 2012
05:11 PM ET
1 year ago

Sen. Chambliss brings tax pledge debate outside beltway

(CNN) - Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, hit back at Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge, saying he doesn't want Washington to "dictate" how he votes and that his commitment is to his constituents.

"I think that you sent me to Washington to think for myself. And I want to vote the way you want me to vote," Chambliss told a group of Republicans in a suburb northwest of Atlanta Saturday, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report. "I don't want to be dictated to by anybody in Washington as to how I'm going to vote on anything."

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Norquist heads the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform and has been successful over the years in lobbying a strong majority of congressional Republicans to sign his pledge not to raise taxes.

According to Americans for Tax Reform, 39 senators, including Chambliss, and 219 House members entering the next Congress have signed the pledge, but with the looming "fiscal cliff" and the need for compromise to avoid the automatic, end-of-year federal spending cuts and tax increases, an increasing number of conservative lawmakers have distanced themselves from Norquist's pledge.

At the core of the debt and deficit negotiations, Republicans and Democrats split on a means to raise revenue needed to tame the nation's growing debt. Republicans generally favor closing loopholes and reducing tax deductions while Democrats favor raising tax rates on wealthier Americans.

In searching for a solution to avoid the "fiscal cliff," Chambliss joined the band of dissenters last week when he told CNN affiliate WMAZ that he "care(s) more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge."

"When I said I care about my country more than I do about a 20-year-old pledge, that's what I'm talking about," the two-term Georgia senator reiterated Saturday. "Things have changed in 20 years. We didn't owe $17 trillion 20 years ago."

In response to a growing chorus opposing the pledge, Norquist told CNN those who signed but now oppose the agreement are having "impure thoughts," adding that no one who signed has actually broken the pledge yet, though he said he will work to unseat those who do.

Some who signed but now oppose the pledge say the commitment was only good for the congressional term, but Norquist has pushed back, saying the congressmen knew the pledge did not have a time limit.

Bringing the issues closer to home, Chambliss discussed the ethanol tax credit, a $6 billion annual tax break given to oil producers. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that small crowd of Cobb County Republicans cheered when Chambliss suggested an elimination of the tax credit, which is largely unpopular in the South.

"Guess what? You just said you would violate the pledge that I signed. Because by the elimination of a tax credit, if you don't take that money and reduce rates, that's a violation of that pledge," said Chambliss, who is up for reelection in 2014.

CNN's Kevin Bohn and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • Fiscal Cliff • Grover Norquist • Saxby Chambliss
soundoff (238 Responses)
  1. Andy C

    Grover Norquist is poison. Pledges of any kind as it relates to politicians should never be allowed or considered. Not too long ago a man named Adolf Hitler extracted loyalty oaths. Those who went against them ended up dead.

    December 2, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  2. Master Blaster

    Instead of raising income tax (personal & corporate) why doesn't anybody (politician, or media) suggest raising TARIFFS? Take the $16,000,000,000,000 debt off the American Tax Payers back, and place it on foreign manufactures. If anybody cracks open a history book, you will see tariffs are how the government delt with paying off past debts from 1790-2000.
    The SECOND Act our FIRST Congress was to impose tariffs. If manufacturing would of stayed in America, instead of exploiting cheap Communist Chinese labor. Our treasury wouldn't be in this mess. Why do citizens have to pay for big businesses recklessness? If Alexander Hamilton & George Washington belived in tariffs. I trust their wisdom & judgement over a modern politician SCARED to do what's right, because they are afraid they might not get that political donation.

    December 2, 2012 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  3. Rhonda Rahn

    Chambliss is a voice of reason from the otherwise unreasonable GOP; unfortunately, he is from the Senate and not the House. The Republican House members are the self-centered, obstructionist party of NO. Let's vote the GOP bums out of the House in 2014 and 2016.

    December 2, 2012 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  4. Marie MD

    It was a bad idea then and it's a worst idea now with the economy of not just the USA but other countries so interwined. I would never believe that these rethugs are changing stripes overnight but they see themselves as what they have become . . . . the party of has beens and tea baggers who are anti American.

    December 2, 2012 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  5. crazeelegs

    Finally, a Republican who has the common sense and guts to stand up to the biggest stonewaller of all–Norquist. Tell him where he can put his "pledge". Run the bum out of town.

    December 2, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  6. Marie Carey

    Taxes and more taxes if it weren't for so many taxes the poor people might have more money to use for things they need.

    December 2, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  7. Donaldbain

    Does it not strike you as odd that an unelected dink like Norquist has the power to dictate to elected representatives how they will vote on issues despite every evidence that doing so will damage the US? What happened to defending the nation against all enemies, both foreign and DOMESTIC? For Republicans, their allegiance to Norquist is more important than their allegiance to the nation. They are not protecting taxpayers, they are playing them for saps.

    December 2, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  8. john

    You should never marry An ideology
    You never know when you will
    Have to get a divorce

    December 2, 2012 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  9. john

    This pledge is seditious and needs to be challenged somehow.

    December 2, 2012 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  10. shoremanbrian

    Chambliss got it right: COUNTRY FIRST !

    December 2, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  11. steven

    this I hope is the beginning of the end of norquist and his americans for tax reform...had the repubs not signed that pedge we would not be in as deep finacial trouble nor would the country come to a stale mate as result of that pledge.

    December 2, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  12. gescpa

    Tax and spend and spend and spend. Go ahead and put a band aid on the cancer cells. This is a case where the patients are self prescribing, and they are not too bright.

    December 2, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  13. S.T. Rehrig

    Maybe the twenty year old pledge Senator Norquist created is outdated?

    If the senator insist on keeping the pledge intact, others might want to work on unseating the senator, as he does them.

    The response should be, we care about the future of our country.

    December 2, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  14. Name

    No new taxes should be considered, without double the reduction in spending for every new tax dollar proposed. We are all aware of how well our tax dollar represents "real value". The government has sooo much waste, the need to cut the waste before getting more to burn

    December 2, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  15. clarke

    Well clearly I like when people think for themselves. No one should dictate how anyone votes.

    December 2, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  16. HuPhartNgau

    We didn't owe 17 trillion dollars 20 years ago – we didn't owe it 12 years ago... A two front war, and U.S. Military bases in over 140 countries, gets a bit pricey.

    December 2, 2012 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  17. a_writer

    I have nothing but contempt for the likes of Mr.Norquist. Having said that, Is Mr.Chambliss is saying that all this time he did not care about the country and his constituents and was perfectly happy to have someone in Washington dictate to him how he should vote – neither one of these two should have anything to do with the running of the government.

    December 2, 2012 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  18. rosethornne

    Wow, a tiny spark of sanity from one republican.

    I'm impressed, it must be so difficult to throw off your whiney 'poopyhead' little master that way.

    December 2, 2012 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  19. Wonderfool

    Norquist sounds like a mullah or an extremist Christian priest when he talks about "impure thoughts" of putting nation and society ahead of his fanaticism. We are a nation of multiple responsibilities to all people, not just a "tax" oriented nation. I would like Norquist to get a real job like I did, toil to support family and send children to public schools and public universities, go to war in Iraq and Afghnistan (or send his children if he has any) and then open his mouth about taxes. To me, he sounds like a free-loader who lives on money paid by tax deductible donations of 2 percenters.

    December 2, 2012 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  20. Move Forward

    Grover Norquist can go pound sand. Who does he think he is? It makes me sick to think that our elected representatives sign a pledge to anything other than being true to the USA. They better start talking and making compromise. People are sick of paying them for doing nothing.

    December 2, 2012 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  21. Richard H

    No time limit on a pledge to not raise taxes? In other words, to never raise taxes, according to Norquist. But, eliminating deductions and loopholes in the tax code is okay. Hey, Norquist, just to let you know, that's the same thing as raising taxes. So, what you are saying Norquist, and the Republican party, is that raising taxes on the wealthy is okay, as long as we raise taxes on the middle class and poor as well. Right? That would seem fair, and proper, if the wealthy were already paying their FAIR share. But, I don't think it is unfair to ask millionaires to pay the same tax rate as a person who makes less than $100,000 a year. If you do Mr. Norquist, and the Republican party, then I can better understand how our economy got to the point it did, and still is. It's because common sense has been replaced by greed, all encompassing, blinding greed, and it is time for you and your backward thinking cronies to retire on your special interest fattened off-shore bank accounts. Good day, "GENTLEMEN".

    December 2, 2012 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  22. Ed

    I have more respect for anyone willing to break that pledge. I would vote for them to

    December 2, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  23. Murray

    Someone should check the 'best before date' on the back of Norquist's head. Even relevancy has a shelf life and Norquist has surpassed his. A legend in is own mind.

    December 2, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  24. sergio

    It is clear that Mr. Norquist, Boehner, and the majority of republican members of congress have become the party of the plutocracy, the party of the rich, as they are willing to sacrifice the middle class tax cuts in order to protect the billionaires from higher taxes. The Republican Party will be happy to burn the nation; in order to protect the rich…If we go over the cliff is because the Republicans will be doing the PUSHING over the cliff!!!

    December 2, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  25. nbgb

    There is an honest politician. Cudos to Sen. Chambliss

    December 2, 2012 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
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