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. Name ill

    Again the stupidly of the norquist pledge continues to haunt the logic of clear headed politicians. We can only hope more pledgers bail out of this
    Ridiculous pledge!

    December 1, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  2. Gadflie

    "Impure thoughts"? Really? Does Grover think he's the pope?

    December 1, 2012 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  3. Chris

    Grover Nordquist, economic terrorist. Single-handedly trying to destroy the credit rating of the U.S. and plunge the entire planet once again into global recession.

    December 1, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  4. Jeff

    We spend far too much, plain and simple. Dramatically cut spending across the board, and accept the "pain" that brings.

    December 1, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  5. Thor Odynson

    Good for Chambliss. Nice to see a moderate republican for once

    December 1, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  6. AD2012

    Just curious, if this benefits 98% if America, then what's the hold up, do we have to march onto Washington to get this done?

    December 1, 2012 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  7. Ramrod

    Grover Norquist dances to the tune of puppet master Karl Rove.
    Karl Rove is trying on to destroy this country.

    December 1, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  8. midgick

    POTUS received both a majority of the Popular and Electoral votes 2 x's in a row. He promised to change the taxes in favor of the Middle and Blue Collar class population.
    The Public wants the reforms and the GOPs better get their brains in gear. If they don't agree to the new proposals from the President, then not only will we all suffer, but the GOPs better kiss their jobs good by.
    Our Country has always worked in a give and take way. That's why we've always been so strong.

    I've got a great idea. Give all the House and Senate members minimum wages, take away their health insurance and make them face life like millions of Americans do every day!!!! Let's see how quick they are to being smart asses.

    December 1, 2012 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  9. Barbra K

    Grover Norquist has always had the pleasure of being treated like he is really is someone important.Well,he really is just an average citizen who thinks and acts like he has controlled the elected republicans and still wants to be the judge and jury. No longer going to happen. Throw away your papers, they're useless. No one cares about your feelings anymore. Democrats have heard enough of you and your antics. i'm a democrat and proud of it. JUST GO AWAY!

    December 1, 2012 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  10. Nietodarwin

    . A full 60% of Americans support letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for those making over $250,000 a year. This includes 63% of Independents.
    We don't need a one party system. I HATE the liar ridden GOP, but I don't want them to implode and disappear because of this, because of having been taken over by the American Taliban, the religious "wrong" , because of completely turning into a party that many of it's supporters now no longer recognize or support.

    December 1, 2012 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  11. LMC

    It's nice to know a Republican has the guts to go against Norquist. The idea of pledging to someone like that seems to go against what legislators are supposed to do for their constituents.

    December 1, 2012 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  12. JoJoHeadtoad

    The bullying tactics of Grover Norquist need to be assessed by any reasonable and responsible legislator who serves this country. It boggles the mind to think that one man has held sway over this country for so long and is a disgrace to the honor of our Congressmen. In order for Republicans to regain any degree of honor after the despicable tactics used in the past decade, they need to kick this man to the curb and start to think for themselves.

    December 1, 2012 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  13. Stopthemadness

    Why does anyone do anything this clown says? He is not a politician but telling people he will ruin their careers anyway he can if they don't stick to a pledge that is killing our country. That is blackmail and treason in my eyes why isn't the justice department arresting and prosecuting this clown?

    December 1, 2012 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  14. BigCountry

    Increase Taxes on the wealthy, leave Bush Tax-Cuts in place, reduce military spending by 25% and remove as much entitlement programs as possible.

    December 1, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  15. Bob

    He can either vote for what the majority of Americans want, which is to restore taxes for the rich, or lose his job when election time rolls around again. Making a pledge to anyone other than his country and his constituents was a really stupid thing to to do, and making one to a lobbyist was really stupid squared, but at least he's had the good sense to realize he was wrong and change his position. Let's hope enough of the remaining banana Republicans in Congress will join him so Washington can get on with solving the country's problems.

    December 1, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  16. catori

    Republicans. Grover Norquist is an unelected special interest group lobbyist.

    Republicans – it is time for you to show more loyalty to the American Public, who employ you, than an unelected special interest group lobbyist.

    Democrats – you need to remember who you work for too.

    December 1, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  17. Evelyn

    The only people who can unseat the person they elected is the public. We as a people do not owe anything to Grover norquist, and he should not have the power to decide who gets elected. EVERYTHING needs to be out there, on both sides, this is no time for bipartisanship and 20 year old pledges

    December 1, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  18. harry taylor

    Postering for re-election in 2014.

    December 1, 2012 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  19. Bob

    I would just say that the pledge was signed when taxes were higher than they are now and returning to those levels is not at all a breaking of the pledge.

    December 1, 2012 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  20. Bill in Anza

    "In short, we lied." So what else is new?

    December 1, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  21. Randy, San Francisco

    If the GOP is serious about reinventing itself to remain competitive, it must burn bridges with extreme people and organizations. Change will be difficult because so many moderates have been purged for failing the purity tests.

    December 1, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  22. J.V.Hodgson

    The grover norquist pledge reminds me of a very sge phioslphers remark whic I plaigarise you fit:
    you can follow a tax pledge some of the time, and some of the tax pledge all the time, but you cannot follow all of a tax pledge all of the time
    Mr Norquist and Republicans, we are no longer desirous of being treated as fools any more by you mr norquist and you shoud do the sensible thing anf throw away all pledges by any elected official.
    As mr chambliss says he has to vote his own mind in line with his constituents with whom he will never get 100 % support on anything even taxes Nor can you pledge or not.
    PS not all tax breaks or give aways have an adequate ROI to the nation at this time.

    December 1, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  23. FrmerMrine

    Any elected official who signed (actually signed, can you believe it?) a pledge to a rich guy to abide by his rules only rather than to serve the public interest is the kind of person who can't be expected to respect any pledge, any responsibility, any promise. It doesn't matter that he now says that he won't abide by that pledge. He should never have made it in the first place. At this point he looks like nothing more than a waffling flip flopper who blows whichever way the wind does.

    December 1, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  24. Ken

    For 20 years Saxby has been honoring his pledge to Norquist, now all of a sudden he doesn't want to be dictated to? Give us a break.

    December 1, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  25. Purely Pragmatic

    We're told that in D.C. these days that there is this odd swishing swirling sound throughout the city. We're told that's the sound of Grover Norquist and Karl Rove circling the drain to irrelevance.

    December 1, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
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