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. EKIA

    Republicans have put revenue on the table. It is time that Democrats put real spending cuts into place. Not reductions in future spending increases. Either raise the Medicare and Social Security eligibility ages to 67 or cut spending to Clinton era levels. Compromise done.

    December 1, 2012 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  2. Name Jan Tremain

    Thank God for men intelligent enough to review a situation and make a new decision based on the current realities. My Democratic heart is encouraged by Senator Chambliss courage and reasoning powers. I cannot say the same for Mr. Norquist. Our national debt frightens me deely; and, because it does, I stand firmly with those legislators smart enough to compromise their way to a viable solution. We've grown weary of the excessive quantities of testostetone. There's an economy to save–forget egotism. We can't afford to indulge adolescent posturing.

    December 1, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  3. Thomas

    John Boehner (R-Ohio) , meet your new boss !

    Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia ..

    December 1, 2012 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  4. Keith

    I am getting very frustrated hearing about the supposed cuts in government programs. There is no such thing. With base line budgeting, a smaller than desired increase in the budget is considered a cut. In reality all bureaucratic budgets increase year to year.

    December 1, 2012 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  5. Sashatree

    Like rats off a sinking ship - add Chambliss to the list of Republicans trying to save their tails by running away from Norquist and his insane pledge! The GOP house of cards is falling - their party has NO leveraging power and I'm thrilled to see them being publicly ripped to shreads for their misdeeds and false alliances with the likes of Norquist and the nutcase Tea Party contingent. Like rats off a sinking by one they fall into the abyss of political death.

    December 1, 2012 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  6. Greg

    I pledge allegiance to Grover of the United States of America. Wait...that's not how it goes. Hmmm. Sounds like some conservatives either may be waking up or understanding that their allegiance to Grover is nothing short of treason. As an American your pledge of allegiance is to this country and not some lobbyist who escaped prosecution in the Abramoff scandal. Grover should be in jail and not dictating how Republicans vote.

    December 1, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  7. No longer feeding the beast

    I hope the GOP gives obama all the tax increases he wants. It will do nothing for the deficit, covering less than 1% of this years obama spending. Smart money will flee the kleptocracy and the economy craters. B obama goes down in history as the worst president ever. Just desserts for the takers who reelected him.

    December 1, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  8. IvotedforPresidentObama

    The GOP should have never signed this pledge. They are unpatriotic to only care for ONE person. Norquist is a dictator and they are his minions.

    December 1, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  9. classybusiness

    Thinking for himself and doing what's right for America. Bravo Senator Chambliss!

    December 1, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  10. gg

    Don't cut any taxes unless greater cuts to spending are made simultaneously.

    December 1, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  11. Gerry

    It's time these foolish Republicans who signed that "pledge" realized they were voted in by many people. NOT by MR NORQUIST.. The people are now speaking, no, demanding their voices be heard by their elected representative. Should they not listen to the call, I'm sure they will understand why they were voted out come 2014. We the people are tired of politicians who represent other then who elected them. DO YOU HEAR US NOW REPUBLICANS ??? ARE YOU READY TO DO THE PEOPLES BUSINESS ???

    December 1, 2012 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  12. Chris

    How about all 219 Congress and 39 senators push back to Norquist?......why are they are running scared of this guy?....with all due respect, he meant and still means well, but he has to be part of the compromise solution as well in the current fiscal climate.....lets see all those who signed it exercise their free will as Senator Chambliss did and lets see Grover Norquist if can now work to unseat 219 Congess and 39 senators as a disrespect to anyone, but 17 trillion debt is downright dangerous and it will be 20 trillion or higher before anyone decides what to do.

    December 1, 2012 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  13. RSG

    Wow! A Republican who's thinking for himself. A sure sign of the times.

    December 1, 2012 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  14. Names Deanna Jacobson

    Senators and Congressional Reps should abide by what their constituents want, not some political action committee with a certain philosophy. As a member of the much maligned 1%, I am totally FOR taxing us at the Clinton tax rate! Has anyone asked us? That's what we want and it should have been done years ago!!!

    December 1, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  15. Brian B

    To Sen Chambliss, I voted the Democratic ticket this election but am an American. I support you 100% in your defiance of bullying tactics. Sir you are a man first. Continue to be an example to other young men. Support your local constituents as you have said mad press on for all of us. May God bless America again

    December 1, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  16. Emerson

    "Norquist has pushed back, saying the congressmen knew the pledge did not have a time limit."

    Grover, if the pledge did not specifically say that it was in perpetuity, you are right – it did not have a time limit, so it was a pledge at will. Not that a pledge has any meaning anyway. I think that most adults would agree that it is as binding as a pinkie swear. And be careful of those impure thoughts – like fairness, civic responsibility and social justice.

    December 1, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  17. Over 70

    Why don't the Republicans have the intestinal fortitude to tell Norquist to stick the pledge where the sun don't shine?

    December 1, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  18. laura

    I must say that this Senator has real guts. He is actually willing to lead the GOP away from a pledge they should never have taken in the first place. Nobody should ever attempt to tie the hands of our Government representatives the way Grover Norquist did.I know that a lot of pressure was put on the Republicans to "fall in line", but having these Senators refuse to goose-step actually makes me think there just might be some real men left in the GOP after all.

    December 1, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  19. Name

    stop opposing the president because of your racist thoughts and all ends well. Be a practicing christian not a fake american!

    December 1, 2012 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  20. Johnny5

    I'm guessing my pledge to never date a girl back when I was 5 years old is out dated too.. I'm 31 now and have on many occasions broken that pledge.. I'm guessing pledges are a bit rediculas.

    December 1, 2012 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  21. AK_steve

    Finally someone willing to take on the Norquist/Tea Party idiocracy. The idea that we can get out of debt by simply lower spending is just lunacy. There is not one reputable economist that supports "austerity measure", And you know who tried to solve their debt problems with austerity? Europe. And they quickly found themselves in worse shape.

    The GOP ideas will bankrupt and ruin our country. Their ideology defies logic and common sense. If they don't come to their sense America is doomed.

    December 1, 2012 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  22. Siestasis

    Norquist is as Unamerican as you can get. He care more about his lucrative job heading this group then does about what happens to this country. He was washed up as a lobbyist until he formed this group and he has been riding the gravy train ever since. Congressmen should vote for what is best for the country not what is best for Norquist or to get them re-elected.

    December 1, 2012 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  23. James M.

    It is long past time that the Republican party distance themselves from Norquist. The Republican party generated this massive debt and now they will have to figure out a way out. Most of the ten TRILLION dollar of debt is for a war that should have never happened and that came at the hands of George Bush II. Sadly, the run up in housing prices was also due to deregulation pushed by the Republicans and their 'cronies'. Now, it is time to pay and pay BIG. Taxes will have to go up and maybe in a major way (even higher than when Bush took office) to pay off these and other programs. It is also way past time to end 'entitlements' and have people pay the real price for products and services. The suppression of the cost of ethanol is just one example. Thank you Sen Chambliss for stepping forward to start the end of this silly program.

    December 1, 2012 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  24. RIALgal

    It's about time the signers of the "pledge" decided to do the right thing. Norquist and company were on a huge ego trip when they talked folks into signing his "pledge" that had no legal merit and certainly was not binding. There is nothing immoral about changing one's mind about that sort of thing just like there's nothing immoral about deciding to resign from a club that no longer appeals to you. Congratulations to those who have decided to speak out about the ridiculousness of the "pledge."

    December 1, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  25. Voiceinthewind

    Holy cow a Republican that is actually thinking for himself. It is about time that America and the American people had some poli-tickers who are actually concerned about America and its constitution and thier obligation to serve America the best way they know how. This guy is using his head Republican or Democrat and its refreshing.

    December 1, 2012 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
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