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. Bill

    You're absolutely right, Mr. Chambliss, you are accountable to your constituents. Don't be surprised when you lose in your next primary though. That will be your constituents holding you accountable.

    December 2, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  2. jjamerb


    we didn't owe $17 trillion because you morons weren't spending they much. Now you are so Stop Spending!

    December 2, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  3. James

    Norquist is an anti-American blackmailer who wants to drive us off that fiscal cliff. Good on Chambliss.

    December 2, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  4. Monomachos

    Good for the Senator – its time to get something done and not be tied down by the past. Dems, your turn.

    December 2, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  5. Reggie from LA

    Chambliss...saying he doesn't want Washington to "dictate" how he votes and that his commitment is to his constituents. Is he crazy or what?!! Who cares what constituents want? It's about what the "handlers" want.
    Anyone seeking to discredit taxing the rich is either among the rich and/or working for them. They absolutely look like ridiculous marionettes in their attempt to protect Frank Luntz's "job creators". Clowns. 10 YEARS + IS UP.! LET THE CUTS EXPIRE EXCEPT FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS (who by the way, were ripped off by Wall Street and cronies).

    December 2, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  6. Support

    Good for him. It is time to change your mind when the world around you is changing. Dump Nordquist. His ideology may have been valid at one point, but no longer. No single ideology or litmus test makes for good representative government.

    December 2, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  7. brian

    >"I think that you sent me to Washington to think for myself. And I want to vote the way you want me to vote,"

    This is commendable thinking, but it's simply not enough. I'm sure if members of both parties actually explored why they believe certain things, they will find out that they only believe them because of biased group mentality.

    December 2, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  8. Mrs b

    I think Sen. FHA bliss should be commended for his position of refusing loyalty to anyone other than his electorate. Good for him. I hope others in the GOP follow his lead.

    December 2, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  9. Alan S.

    The days hopefully are numbered for Power Hungry Grover Norquist. The Republican Lawmakers misguided commitment to Grover Norguist just proves their support of "Special Interests Groups" of over the general American Public and reforces their commitment to the wealthy of society only. As a long time Republican myself the recent introduction of the Tea Party and some of the crazy characters associated with it and along with individuals such as Grover Norquist who uses threats and intimidation to keep his position of power and control over the Republican Party as a Dictator is scary to say the least and no one person should wield that much power in our government. This is why I have left the party as well as many of my friends have as well. If the Republicans don't relent and raise taxes on the wealthy and let us go over the "Fiscal Cliff" we " Independents are going to push for a National Recall effort of Republicans who voted against proving that they are only commited to Grover Norquist and they don't care about the welfare of the American People.

    December 2, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  10. Layne

    Norquist's pledge was a good idea twenty years ago, when unemployment was low and the government was running a surplus. But we've had two unfunded wars and a Great Recession since then. Our infrastructure is twenty years older, the income gap has grown every year since the Pledge, and we're $16 trillion in debt.

    December 2, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  11. Jon

    Good for Saxby. Times have changed. We need to raise taxes across the board, not just on the wealthy. A small percentage that's barely noticeable individually would make a huge difference nationally. You couple that with spending cuts, and I mean real spending cuts. Not Obama promising $400 billion maybe next year. That's a joke and in poor faith. Of the GOP can pass a tax increase the libs can cut some ridiculously bloated spending.

    December 2, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  12. bruce

    The Repubs need to stop being freeloaders. YOU voted for the two wars didn't you? Did you think all that WAS FREE??? Now the ONE PERCENTERS need to help pay for it and stop being deadbeats. Obviously their contribution is only worth 8-10 days, and we MUST make cuts... but really, since when do you guys expect to get off scott free on Americas back?

    December 2, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  13. penguin

    We should eliminate all charitable deductions, fix earned income tax rate at 20%, and progressively tax unearned income at 15% for those whose income is less than 200,000 up to 45% when income levels hit 2 million. Cut military spending 5-10%, cut SS benefits 5%, and include all income up to 300,000 when taking SS from income.

    December 2, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  14. Bushy Mustache

    Norquist should be run out of Washington on a rail.

    December 2, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  15. Ron

    The reality? When EITHER party allows a power broker to dictate how they vote then America is in deep trouble. Which is why America IS in deep trouble.

    December 2, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  16. Richard Hode

    So, that's how easy it is to break a pledge. "That was then, but this is now." Such wonderful ethics. Chambliss is certainly a man who knows how to trim his sails in the prevailing wind, a man for all seasons.

    December 2, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  17. stranger in an increasingly strange land

    Now the Republicans are going to pretend to work to stop the fiscal cliff, when ,in reality, it is the best thing that could happen for them. Republicans are not all idiots. If the cliff happens, tax increases hit everyone including the rich, so Republicans can get needed tax increases while saying it is not their fault. Massive cuts will happen in all areas of government spending, including cuts in defense and it won't be Republicans fault. Social programs will be cut down and Republicans will say it was not my fault. There will probably be another recession and, again, not Republicans fault.

    The fact is it will be their fault. The main stopping point for Republicans is going back to the tax rates that were in effect for the rich when Bush took office. That is the onl;y thing stopping a solution. A few super rich families that would make Scrooge look warm and fuzzy are going to take a chance on destroying America for a few bucks they don't even need. I get all teary eyed just thinking abour it

    December 2, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  18. jollyspock

    who cares? why does norquist even matter? he matters only to the looney-tunes tea party fringe extremist minority. the old conservative hate group GOP has lost its power, freedom has won...

    December 2, 2012 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  19. rumrunner

    reality has set in, and it trumps ideology.

    December 2, 2012 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  20. Common sense grandma

    I am almost starting to respect the GOP again - at least the ones with enough self respect to stand up to Norquist.

    December 2, 2012 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  21. Donald

    Maybe this "we might cooperate for the betterment of the nation" thing the Republicans are getting on taxes will infect the Democrats on entitlement spending? We can only hope...(or elect less partisan maniacs in the future)

    December 2, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  22. Leslie Ann Warren

    Thank U God In Jesus Name Blood & Luv!!

    December 2, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  23. mjbrin

    "impure thoughts,"
    the pledge did not have a time limit
    is Norquist the pope of a new religion?

    December 2, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  24. Tim

    I wonder if the only reason these republicans are breaking the pledge is because they know that even if they vote yes making it appear like they've made a compromise, it will die in the house?

    December 2, 2012 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  25. aaa

    Who does Chambliss think he's fooling? For 2 terms he followed the repub line but now, with re-election looming he's trying to appear to be independent of his party.

    December 2, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
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