Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) on Wednesday said that addressing the nation’s looming “fiscal cliff” took precedence over honoring the anti-tax pledge he signed for conservative activist Grover Norquist.
“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” said Chambliss to local Georgia television station 13WMAZ. “If we do it his way then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”
Chambliss said he expected that Norquist and some conservatives might hold his decision against him when he is up for reelection in 2014, but said he was confident he had made the right choice.
“I'm willing to do the right thing and let the political consequences take care of themselves,” the Georgia senator added.
Chambliss could face a primary challenge from a number of House GOP lawmakers.
An influential anti-tax lobbyist, Norquist , the head of Americans for Tax Reform, has hosted a pledge signed by the majority of Republicans in Congress promising not to increase marginal income tax rates or to eliminate loopholes or deductions without corresponding tax-rate reductions.
But with lawmakers and the White House hoping to reach a deficit-reduction deal to avoid the fiscal cliff of rising tax rates and automatic spending cuts set to take effect in January, some Republicans have suggested they will no longer honor their commitment to the pledge.
In a statement Friday, Norquist responded, saying that Chambliss’s pledge to not raise taxes was made to his constituents.
“Senator Chambliss promised the people of Georgia he would go to Washington and reform government rather than raise taxes to pay for bigger government. He made that commitment in writing to the people of Georgia. If he plans to vote for higher taxes to pay for Obama-sized government he should address the people of Georgia and let them know that he plans to break his promise to them,” said Norquist. “The Senator's reference to me is odd. His promise is to the people of Georgia.”
I would urge all Senators to oppose Obama's budget that raises taxes on the American people and sets the stage for larger taxes in the future on energy that will hit all Americans and raise the cost of living while reducing the number and quality of jobs in America,” Norquist added.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said after the election that the GOP was open to new revenues in a deficit deal on the fiscal cliff, but has expressed opposition to raising tax rates on wealthier Americans, a measure President Obama and Democrats are insisting on.
Norquist, though, has expressed support publicly for Boehner’s position, saying that he was for “additional revenue” but not additional tax increases.
Democrats made Norquist a centerpiece of their attacks during the election, accusing Republicans of being under his control and of rejecting serious measures to rein in the deficit to honor the pledge.
Chambliss has expressed concerns over the Norquist pledge in the past. In 2011, he said that while he had never voted for a tax increase, he believed Republicans needed to openly discuss ways to bring in new revenue in ant deficit-cutting package.
This story was originally published on Nov. 22 at 2:14 p.m. and last updated on Nov. 23 at 4:44 p.m.