By Erik Wasson
Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) on Wednesday vowed to “protect” GOP representatives who break with Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge.
Simpson, who along with Erskine Bowles led President Obama's debt commission, said the Campaign to Fix the Debt, which he co-founded, has raised millions to go to bat for senators and representatives from both parties who come under political attack for compromising to reach a "fiscal cliff" deal.
Simpson has led the charge against Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) pledge, which has been signed by most Republicans in Congress. He said that politicians need to avoid being enthralled to Norquist and the AARP over taxes and cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
The Campaign has millions of dollars on hand to help in political races, Simpson added.
He predicted Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in particular would come under attack for backing some entitlement cuts as part of a Gang of Eight deal. Simpson said an unnamed senator, whom he described as “not helpful,” has been gunning for Durbin's job, an apparent reference to liberal Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the No. 3 Democrat.
Schumer has pushed for a deal that includes tax reform that raises rates, rather than lowering them as proposed in the Bowles-Simpson plan.
Simpson was not shy in criticizing members of his own party as well.
Some people in the GOP are “as rigid as a fireplace poker without the occasional warmth,” the folksy senator said.
He said that if Washington goes over the cliff and allows tax hikes and automatic spending cuts to take effect, he hopes voters will point the blame at those who failed to compromise.
“I hope that does happen, and I think it could happen,” he said.
As part of the fiscal cliff negotiations, the White House is urging Republicans to vote to allow tax rates on upper-income individuals to rise, a flat violation of the ATR pledge.
Tax rates on the wealthy, as well as those for the middle class, will rise in January if Congress does not act, leading some liberals to advocate going over the cliff. At that point, passing a middle-class tax extension without extending the rates for the wealthy would technically be a tax cut.
Bowles, who also spoke at the event alongside Simpson, expressed pessimism that lawmakers and the White House could compromise and reach an accord.
He predicted a two-thirds chance efforts to reach a deficit deal by the end of the year would fail.
“I am really worried,” said Bowles. “I believe the probability is that we are going over the cliff. I think it would be horrible and devastating.”
Image courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor