Sen. Chambliss brings tax pledge debate outside beltway
December 1st, 2012
05:11 PM ET
8 years 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. bobby

    Taxing the rich won't make a dent in the deficit, if Obama wants to collect money to either spend or pay get the deficit down, he'll have to tax the middle class. So what about it, middle class, are you willing to man up and take the tax hit? All talk but no go? The middle class is where the $$$ is.

    December 1, 2012 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  2. Alfred E. Neuman

    So why did you sign the pledge in the first place? Typical politician going wherever the latest wind is blowing.

    December 1, 2012 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  3. Henry

    Grover Norquist is the best example of why a major reform of campaign financing is an absolute must.

    December 1, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  4. Tax Know-Nothings

    Grover Norquist is an incompetent and is one of the worst things to ever happen to this country. The pledge is an idiotic manipulative ploy that has no sound policy basis and Norquist wouldn't know the word pragmatism if it hit him in the face.

    Besides, if the Republican view is eliminate the deductions and loopholes then wealthy Americans would wind up with the same ETR (effective tax rate) and may even end up paying more if certain deductions are limited or eliminated. And if this is the plan, then it would be nice to know WHICH deductions and loopholes they are referencing.

    December 1, 2012 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  5. Lee Downie

    Good man, Chambliss: go for it.

    December 1, 2012 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    NO republican should allow Obama to have his way. It is simply bad for the country, as a whole.

    December 1, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  7. Stephen Motta

    Mainstream media is doing everything in its power to propagate story of what they hope is rift in Republican ranks on issue of raising taxes: I believe story is not real, there is no rift, and we are appropriately at stalemate until Democrats make a serious proposal on spending cuts. I applaud Boehner et al for standing firm: their construct for raising revenues through a cap on deductions is a smart way of going at the revenue side of the equation. Administration needs to get serious on spending.

    December 1, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  8. Grizzled One

    "think for myself" and "vote the way you want me to" are at slight odds with each other, wouldn't you say?

    December 1, 2012 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  9. Nurul Aman

    Sen. Chambliss, with due respect, you are one of several GOP leaders actually have signed this ridiculous pledge dictated by this Crony Capitalist Norquist. So, technically you were fooled by this outsider and un-American lobbyist Norquist. Americans are happy to see you have come to a commonsense to ditch Norquist. However, that is not enough. To do the right thing for your constituents, I hope you will support Pres. Obama's fiscal proposal for the greater interest of the country and its positive future.

    December 1, 2012 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  10. steve-0

    It will be so nice to welcome the GOP back to the land of sanity and reality. Grover is no better than bin Laden–he hates the USA and only loves rich people. Grover deserves the same fate as Bin laden.

    December 1, 2012 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  11. Steve S

    Hopefully Grover's 15 minutes of fame is OVER!?

    December 1, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  12. Angela

    Chambliss, who is up for reelection in 2014.

    Oops there it is! We're coming!

    December 1, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  13. us_1776

    Norquist is a subversive Muslim who needs to self-deport.


    December 1, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  14. Elliot

    Any congressman who signed that pledge also made a pledge to "do diligence to their office" . The latter was to their constituents. It is far more important that they honor their pledge to their voters than to lobbiest in Washington, DC.

    December 1, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  15. Alan

    I could never figure out how this whole tax thing pledge ever got have to be really shortsighted to make such a pledge. It also seems like it politicizes the solemnity of a real a marriage vow, pledge of allegiance, or military service.....a pledge on taxes?????....what were these guys thinking...they have boxed themselves into a corner for a would think they would have been a little more savvy...

    December 1, 2012 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  16. migelix

    A "fatwa"was issued today on Grover Norquist by theAyatollah kakamami.He didn't pay his taxes it seems.

    December 1, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  17. Steve Lyons

    Part of the reason you were sent to DC was to NOT raise taxes. They sent you for your pledge, not to renege on that pledge. Forget not that you work FOR the taxpayers not the tax consumers.

    December 1, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  18. Paul

    So NOW he decides to think for himself?? Please pure politics here. If Romney had one they would be holding up that pledge like it was the bible. The BS piles up so high you need hip waders to stay above it. Just get something done for the American people Senator, for once.

    December 1, 2012 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Bush and his stupids team should pay back what was robbed from us taxpayers, for his damn hypocrit mistakes! he's laughing to the bank now, plays golf when we struggle and we'll pay for years to come just because of his incompetence !

    December 1, 2012 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  20. Hillcrester

    Chambliss is so noble, " think for myself" and all that–so why had he signed the "let Norquist think for me" pledge?

    December 1, 2012 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  21. Drabc

    Spread the pain, balance the budget, be couragous, and the future will be bright. The only pledge to which our leaders should be held accountable is their pledge of office.

    December 1, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  22. Lance D.

    If the republicans were that sinister, they would allow Obama to go unchecked for a couple of years.

    December 1, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  23. volks

    United we stand. Right ?

    December 1, 2012 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  24. John Haldi

    The “fiscal cliff” exists because a majority of Senators and Congressmen voted in favor of the law that created the cliff. Since Republicans have a substantial majority in the House, that necessarily means a number of them voted — indirectly, perhaps — in favor of the pending tax increase. Thus, in so doing, any prior “pledge” they might have made not to raise taxes obviously was violated. And those who violated their pledge cannot now claim to be virgins. The damage has been done. As no further vote is necessary in order for taxes to increase, neither Mr. Norquist nor his pledge can prevent the pending tax increase.

    There is irony— or hypocrisy, if you will — in all this. Should taxes be increased as existing law stipulates, and subsequently some portion of the tax increase be rolled back, those who helped get us into this mess by voting in favor of the “cliff” and the pending tax increase will then posture themselves as “heroes” for helping to “reduce” taxes. It is unfortunate that this “pledge,” violated many months ago when the fiscal cliff was enacted, now appears to be a strong barrier to any kind of rational discussion concerning how to proceed. Senator Chambliss is correct to ignore this silly pledge and engage in rational debate on the best way to solve our problems.

    December 1, 2012 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  25. Joe Smith

    I'm not saying that I agree with Senator Chambliss on everything, but, by God, it's good to see him, and some other elected representatives, putting the good of the country ahead of a pledge made to benefit a small percentage of the population.

    December 1, 2012 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
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