Boehner calls anti-tax crusader Norquist 'some random person'
November 3rd, 2011
03:29 PM ET
11 years ago

Boehner calls anti-tax crusader Norquist 'some random person'

Washington (CNN) - House Speaker John Boehner downplayed the influence of Washington's most notable anti-tax crusader, calling Grover Norquist "some random person" at his weekly press conference Thursday.

Asked about Norquist, who heads the powerful Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) group, Boehner said, "it's not often I'm asked about some random person in America and what I think."

When pressed again about Norquist's sway over the House GOP, the speaker said he was focused squarely on creating jobs, not talking "about somebody's personality." But Boehner stressed the GOP stance on taxes, saying "our conference is opposed to tax hikes because we believe that tax hikes will hurt our economy and put Americans out of work."

Norquist's group urges members of Congress each session to sign a pledge to their constituents that they will not vote for any tax increases. With the "super committee" now less than three weeks from its deadline for voting on a plan to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the deficit there is increased focus on the anti-tax promise, and whether there will be political fallout for those who consider breaking it. It's unclear whether some options under discussion, such as closing corporate loopholes, would be interpreted as being in conflict with ATR's pledge.

Asked about the inclusion of revenues in a debt plan at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Norquist said he supported getting rid of the deductions added to the tax code as political deals. But he also warned against efforts to use the ending of special carve outs as "a Trojan horse for tax increases."

Norquist added, "That's why the earlier efforts on increasing taxes on the energy sector to spend the money was a nonstarter. This is to clean up the code without turning it into a secret backdoor tax increase which is what too often what some people use tax reform to do."

According to the ATR website 238 House members and 41 senators have signed its pledge, which reads, "I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

Just two House Democrats and one Senate Democrat signed the pledge in this session of Congress, and Congressional Democrats frequently argue that Norquist's pledge is the reason Republicans have been unwilling to compromise on the issue of tax increases as part of a big deal to slash the federal deficit.

The House Democrats' campaign arm jumped on Boehner's comment, arguing it contradicted the House GOP's actions on tax policy.

"It's laughable that after nearly every House Republican has signed away their ability to close tax loopholes for big oil and tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires in this special interest pledge, now Speaker Boehner thinks that its author is just a random person," said Jesse Ferguson, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Earlier this week former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson sarcastically referred to Norquist in his testimony before the "super committee," saying, "if Grover is now the most powerful man in America he should run for president. There is no question about his power and he has people enthralled."

Simpson has repeatedly argued that tax revenues need to be paired with entitlement reforms in order to come up with a comprehensive deficit reduction package.

South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, when asked about the charge by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the GOP are "puppets" of Norquist, said GOP's opposition to tax increases is a philosophical tenet of the party. But Thune said he believed the GOP could support ending special tax loopholes if done in broader approach.

"If you were able to come up with some reforms to our tax code that lower rates and broaden the tax base and get away with a lot of the lobbyist loopholes that riddle our tax code today, that you would see economic growth and that would generate more revenue. I don't think there's anybody on our side who is opposed to that," Thune said.

–CNN's Kate Bolduan, Ted Barrett, and Xuan Thai contributed to this report.

Filed under: Congress • Grover Norquist • John Boehner • Taxes
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. roscoe

    He's not willing to talk about the guy holding the House of Rep's hostage? What else would you expect?

    November 3, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  2. v_mag

    And St. Peter denied his god three times before the rooster crowed. Boehner is no saint, and I expect he will have to consume a good deal of ca ca to get back in his master's good graces. Grovel, Beeno.

    November 3, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    Boehner can't face the truth that Norquist has more control and power over House GOP/Tea Party members.

    November 3, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
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