Norquist OK with Boehner tax stance

Grover Norquist is fine with House Speaker John Boehner’s post-election stance on taxes - so far.

ADVERTISEMENT
The influential anti-tax activist said in a television interview set to air Sunday that Boehner’s offer of new revenues through tax reform and economic growth could pass muster under the pledge against tax increases that most Republicans in Congress, including the Speaker, have signed.

“I’m for additional revenue. I’m not for tax increases,” Norquist said on C-Span’s “Newsmakers.” “Neither has Boehner suggested he is either.”

The details, of course, will matter most, and a few conservatives have already questioned Boehner’s position.

Boehner (R-Ohio) has reiterated that Republicans will not accept tax-rate increases, but he said they could agree to additional revenue in a broader deal that lowers tax rates, curbs spending and reforms entitlement programs. Under the Taxpayer Protection Pledge organized by Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, any revenue gained through the closure of tax loopholes in deductions must be offset by equal tax cuts elsewhere. Norquist and other Republicans say a simpler tax code with lower marginal rates will create additional revenue through the economic growth the reform will generate, but that is not generally counted by the Congressional Budget Office.

While Norquist said Boehner was on solid ground so far, he warned that a deal that closed loopholes immediately but did not simultaneously lower rates would violate the tax pledge.

“It would be a tax increase and the Republicans, one, wouldn’t support it, and two, yes it would violate the pledge that most Republicans have made to their constituents,” Norquist said.

Like other Republicans, Norquist rejected the notion that the election results gave President Obama a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy.

“We kind of had a split decision,” he said. He pointed out that Obama won by a slimmer margin than he did four years ago, and he said Republicans had solidified their majority in the House through decennial redistricting, despite the fact that Democrats gained seats.

“The Republican majority in the House was elected not for the next four years, but for the next 10,” he said. “You have a much stronger House, equally committed to not raising taxes. Boehner said so before the election and after the election.”

Norquist described the lame-duck session of Congress as a “jump ball,” but he predicted the result on taxes would be similar to the outcome after the 2010 elections, when despite promises to the contrary, Obama agreed to extend all of the George W. Bush-era tax rates for two years.

“One of the reasons I don’t get too worked up is that we’ve played this game of chess with the exact same group of people with the chessboard exactly the same,” he said, in a reference to the divided government of a Republican majority in the House (which had yet to take power in December 2010), a Democratic Senate and Obama in the White House.

He said it was more likely Republicans and Democrats would compromise on the automatic spending cuts set to take effect at year’s end than on taxes.

As for the state of the GOP, Norquist said the party must change its tone on immigration, but he characterized the election as a validation of its position on taxes, spending and entitlements - as expressed through the budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the Republican vice presidential nominee.

Democrats tried and failed to oust Republicans based on their support for the Ryan budget, Norquist said.

“I think what the election really did is to solidify the modern Republican Party as the party whose solution to the crisis in deficits and entitlement spending and taxes is the Ryan budget,” he said. The budget “doesn’t happen until you have a different president and a different Senate, but it is the future.”

He defended the power of the pledge, noting an incoming majority of the House had taken it and that two Democrats who took it and broke it had either lost or retired.