Grover Norquist on Friday responded to criticism from GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) who suggested this week that he was ready to ditch the influential activist’s anti-tax pledge.
“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,” said Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, in a statement.
Norquist’s response was sparked by an interview Chambliss gave to a local Georgia station on Thursday where the senator said “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.”
“If we do it his way then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that,” Chambliss added.
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An influential anti-tax lobbyist, Norquist has hosted a pledge signed by a majority of congressional Republicans 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 taking effect in January, some Republicans have suggested they will no longer honor their commitment to the pledge.
Approximately a dozen newly elected House Republicans have also refused to sign the anti-tax pledge.
Norquist said the senator should be focused on his commitment to his constituents.
“The Senator's reference to me is odd,” said Norquist. “His promise is to the people of Georgia.”
Norquist said that Chambliss had previously explained his negotiating position as supporting pro-growth economic policies to raise revenues and pay down the debt without raising taxes.
“That is certainly a position I support and the only ‘plan’ that I have endorsed is the Paul Ryan budget that brings the budget to balance and pays down the debt without any tax hikes,” said Norquist. “Sen. Chambliss voted for the Ryan plan. I miss his point in trying to attack me.”
Chambliss on Thursday had said he understood some conservatives would criticize his decision and might challenge him in2014, when he is up for reelection.
“I'm willing to do the right thing and let the political consequences take care of themselves,” the senator said.
But Norquist hit back on Thursday, saying that history had shown that raising taxes was a political dead-end.
"Sen. Chambliss mentions his fear of losing a primary if he breaks his word to Georgians and votes to raise their taxes,” said Norquist. “History reminds us that when President George H.W. Bush raised taxes in a deal that promised (and did not deliver) spending cuts he was defeated not in the primary, but in the general.”