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. Jeff Nove

    Throw all of them in Jail. or Class Action suit...US vs. Tax evaders... These guys have sold there souls to NOrquist over the American people!!!

    December 1, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  2. 22

    The GOP signed their souls away to Norquist.I don't see how you can say you love your country but struggle to denounce a lobbyist! I can't wait for the midterm elections to come around.I'm willing to knock on doors,phone bank,donate to any campaign that will get rid of these treasonous losers.We have the power to take this country back from the grips of Boehner,Norquist et al.

    December 1, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  3. Danial Farooq

    The good news derived on November 6 , 2012 election was that money and influence of special interests did not affect popular votes for President Obama . Contrary to " do nothing " 112th Congress , which has been sold completely to special interests , influential lobbyists the very rich and wealthy 2 percent . Sen . Chmabliss , Congressman Tom Cole and few others in GOP are urging their caucus to support tax cuts continue , for those with income below $250 ,000 a year , i. e. , 98 percent of the people . The GOP in Congress have signed pledges for no tax increase with Grover Norquist , an influential lobbyists for the one percent . The Republicans are running away from conservatism to extremists ideas . The Congress has become dysfunctional , Obstructionist and do nothing for sake of greens !

    December 1, 2012 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  4. Both_R_Losers

    Norquist heads the conservative group Tax Reformists Against Americans.

    December 1, 2012 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  5. MikeFright


    I’m a fiscal conservative who voted for Republicans for several decades, then couldn’t stand either side for awhile, then got so furious with Republicans and their righteous talk and fiscal irresponsibility that I began voting Democrat.

    For those Republicans who don’t get why I’m angry at them when Democrats are almost as bad: Let’s say you’re robbed by a stranger at some point in your life and, later on, you’re cheated even worse by someone who purported to be an honest friend. Who would you hate the most?

    I hope we’re seeing a return to pragmatic sanity among Republicans. Yes, Democrats are traditionally the “tax and spend” party, but Republicans since 1980 have been the “borrow and spend” party. Try that approach in your private life and see how far it takes you. The Great Reagan and GHW Bush, both of whom I voted for because I wanted the debt reduced, doubled the debt:GDP ratio and tripled the actual monetary value of the national debt in twelve years. And GW Bush was worse. Now I only wish we could get back to the debt we had in 1980.

    Cutting taxes is not fiscally responsible unless spending is cut commensurably. Norquist thought he could force government into cutting spending by cutting revenue. He would have been a national hero if he’d been correct, but he was wrong; the politicians just borrowed the money and kept spending. Republicans, and Democrats too, are like drunks who are always and continually, absolutely, positively, without fail going to sober up next week. Talk is cheap and in Washington it’s dirt cheap.

    December 1, 2012 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  6. Rogue351

    If the GOP does not change it's militant way and how then deal with the president and the Dems the GOP will be no more. Anyone with any inteligents at all will not put up with another for years of them doing nothing. Either compromise or leave. Stop dragging America through the mud because of your ego. The Dems won now deal with it and work together, also realazie it is not your way or the highway. The American people have spoken and no matter how much moaning you do will not change the situation. Now deal with the problems in a productive way or leave office and let someone in that will.

    December 1, 2012 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  7. Jules

    Senator Chambliss is my Senator and when this news first came out I was so pleased. Since then I have taken note of member of both houses getting what I would describe as a little reluctant to move too far away from Grover Norquist. I even received a reply to a letter I wrote to the senator expressing my support. Just yesterday I received a response from the senator that echoed that same reluctance. These guys need to get serious, I know people in Georgia that have already been laid off just in the past few weeks and the tone of many employers is nervous to say the least. I hope these representatives will realize that they work for us and not Grover.

    December 1, 2012 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  8. Mike Fleissner

    norquist has said he wants our government small enough that he can drown it in his bathtub. I'm sure al queda and all our enemies would agree. I think norquist has done more to harm the United States than bin laden and al queda.

    December 1, 2012 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  9. Ljjm

    Norquist can't hold people hostage for 20 years. Obviously republicans are finally reading the "fine print"!

    December 1, 2012 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  10. Brian

    So it only took him 8+ years to start thinking for himself and voting how his constituents want him to vote.

    December 1, 2012 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  11. CSX

    CNN is quick to show conservative divisions. CNN makes me feel like I am in the former USSR.

    Russians are probably freer now.

    December 1, 2012 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  12. Belseth

    Technically they aren't raising taxes they are just getting rid of temporary tax breaks. I'm sick to death of hearing that the country has to come to a stop because of some ridiculous 20 year old pledge. If they were really serious about it they should have balanced the budget. The same Republicans were happen to spend the money when Bush Jr was in office but now they don't want to pay the debt.

    December 1, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  13. Heard It all before

    CNN, you said this exact thing last week, its not news. Please bring new coverage and stop rehashing same ol stuff.

    December 1, 2012 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  14. DRE

    Norquist is nothing, he doesn't even hold an elected office. Members of Congress (House & Senate) have an obligation to those that elected them to office and to move this country in a positive direction.

    At the present time, if the GOP is not willing to work with the President the Senate then the Bush Tax cuts will simply expire, and everyones taxes will go up. For myself that may not be a bad thing, There will be people that it will cause financial hardship, but at least the wealthy will then have to start paying taxes again, and hopefully the corporations too; since more than half pay $0. In the long run it will probably mean we move closer to surpluses like we had in the late 90s.

    Think about it...

    December 1, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  15. smithdp

    Now, Saxby you know Grover calls the shots for Republicans. We can't have folks out there thinking for themselves. Grover won't like that.

    December 1, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  16. John

    Norquist: Someone will "work to unseat" YOU

    December 1, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  17. Groversuncle

    The invisible hand of Grover and friends still have a good choke hole on most Republicans.

    December 1, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  18. Tom

    It is unfortunate for Senator Chambliss that his comments make so much sense, because actually using your brains on behalf of your constituents would have made sense 20 years ago just as much as it does now. Here's a line he might recognize: "Didn't you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?"

    December 1, 2012 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  19. The_Mick

    You have to give Chambliss credit. A "vow" on things like taxes means you will not consider the opposite viewpoint and are not willing to compromise with it. Compromise is the grease of Democracy. You cannot have it without compromise.

    December 1, 2012 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  20. ObaWendon

    Thank goodness for common sense with this Senator! I hope more follow and come to their senses. Their loyalty belongs to us who voted them in, not to Grover Norquist. I don't ever remember Grover Norquist being on any ballot I ever voted on. He needs to be put in his place and go away. I tell you one thing, I would vote for the people who distance themselves from his pledge, I would not vote for anyone who has signed it!

    December 1, 2012 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  21. rvoter

    Don't matter Obama want us to go over cliff so he can get taxes and blame Republicans.

    December 1, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  22. ludvig

    Grover Norquist came up with his economic theory as a 7th grader. That is what the Republicans economic theory is based upon, the theory of a 7th grader. I guess the Republican party isn't much into higher education.

    December 1, 2012 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  23. Kathy

    I read that rational Republicans were distancing themselves from Norquist in April, though some may have used his wife's religion as an excuse. How many times do we have to see 20 yr. on distancing from powerful lobbiests. Rove, Bush I and his maintaining Saudi connections through rights of ex-pres to CIA intell. If we had coalition government like the rest of the world,.would it help?

    December 1, 2012 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  24. oldtimer

    I've been trying to vote out the politicians that are spending over & above whats necessary. I've changed careers 4 times in my lifetime & have been paying taxes every single year. Have never been on any of the freeby/gimme all you can government: Federal or State programs! Served in the USA military When am I going to be able to enjoy my peacefull retirement? Matter of fact what about the rest of the generations to come along after me, are they ever going to be able enjoy there older years? Probably not! Politicians & Presidents are the only one's with different insurance plans & salaries to carry them comfortably into old age. Notice I said "old age" not maturity!

    December 1, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  25. Ratified1791

    Saxby Chambliss is on his way out and slated for replacement by the Tea Party. His word means spit, his vows as good as Bill Clinton's to Hillary, worthless.

    December 1, 2012 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
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