Norquist: Senate Democrats up in 2014 are ‘hostages’ in year-end tax battle

Norquist: Senate Democrats up in 2014 are ‘hostages’ in year-end tax battle

Conservative anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist says the 20 Senate Democrats facing re-election in 2014 will be the “hostages” who will ensure that President Obama does not raise the Bush-era tax rates.

Democrats have been talking tough in recent days about drawing a hard line on extending the Bush tax rates only for families making below $250,000.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Senators grill Perry on Yucca nuclear storage plans MORE (Wash.), the Democratic co-chairman of the 2011 deficit-reduction supercommittee, said Monday that Democrats would let income tax rates rise across the board if Republicans refuse to drop their opposition to raising new taxes. Senate Democratic leaders have endorsed her declaration.

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But Norquist thinks vulnerable senators up for re-election in two years will force Democrats to back down, as they did in 2010 by extending virtually all of the Bush tax cuts for two years.

“Last time Republicans won the House and [were] a little strengthened in the Senate and Obama folded completely. We’re going to be stronger this time than after last time; our hostages are the 20 Democrats up in ’14. We’ll send them either piece by piece or one at a time over to the White House to negotiate,” Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and author of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, told The Hill in an interview.

The Bush tax cuts are due to expire at the end of the year and while the Senate will vote this week on competing proposals to extend the rates for families earning under $250,000 or to extend all the rates, nothing is expected to become law until after the election.



A similar scenario played out in 2010 when Democrats insisted they would not extend the tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest families. They softened their stance during the lame-duck session after Republicans picked up a mass of seats in the midterm election.


Lawmakers expect to decide whether to pass another extension this December and the Bush tax cuts could be the first significant vote of the 2014 cycle.

Democrats argue they will be in a stronger position to negotiate. In 2010, Obama wanted to avoid the prospect of raising taxes before his re-election and Democratic lawmakers acquiesced to a deal he struck with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellErnst polls supporters on Obamacare repeal plan Cornyn: Passing Senate healthcare bill by July 4 ‘optimistic’ Sasse has 'nothing to announce' on GOP ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Ky.) to extend the rates for all incomes.  

They think Obama will drive a harder bargain this fall because he does not have to worry about winning a second term.

Norquist argues the roles will be reversed this year. He predicts endangered Senate Democrats will put pressure on Obama not to let all the income tax rates expire.

“The Democrats in the House and Senate went along with saving Obama by giving a two-year extension to the Bush tax cuts in ’10. That was to save Obama,” he said. “They were playing team ball to help Obama across the finish line, now it’s Obama’s turn,” he said.

Senate Democrats face an election map in 2014 that appears more challenging than the 2012 map.

Twenty Democratic senators are up for re-election in two years compared to only 13 Republicans. Many of those Democrats face tough races while the most vulnerable Republican is McConnell, who is running in a state where Sen. John McCainJohn McCainFrustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response Coats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Ariz.) captured 57-percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election.

Threatened Democrats in 2014 include Sens. Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (Alaska), Al FrankenAl FrankenDrug pricing order would cut regulations Dems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Congress poised to prohibit airlines from forcibly removing customers MORE (Minn.), Tim JohnsonTim JohnsonCourt ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit Former GOP senator endorses Clinton after Orlando shooting MORE (S.D.), Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), John RockefellerJay RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE (W.Va.) and Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Senate overwhelmingly passes Russia sanctions deal Russia sanctions deal clears key Senate hurdle MORE (N.H.).

Other Democrats are running in Republican-leaning states — Sens. Max BaucusMax BaucusLawmakers: Leave advertising tax break alone GOP: FBI firing won't slow agenda White House tax-reform push is ‘game changer,’ says ex-chairman MORE (Mont.) and Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMeet Mitch Landrieu, the 2020 dark-horse Dem Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory MORE (La.) — or swing states — Sens. Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (N.C.) and Mark WarnerMark WarnerElection hacking fears turn heat on Homeland Security Are Democrats trying to pin the blame for their own sins on Russia? Policymakers forget duty to protect taxpayers from financial failures MORE (Va.).

Senate Republicans, by contrast, face relatively easy re-elections in 2014. Only Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenate Republicans reluctant to rush vote on healthcare bill GOP senator defends funding Planned Parenthood GOP sen: 'We should not be voting' on healthcare this week MORE, a third-term incumbent who won 61 percent of the vote in 2008, represents a state Obama carried.

This year, Democrats have many seats to defend in conservative-leaning states but they also have a chance to win GOP-held seats in Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Arizona.

Norquist and other Republican strategists believe Senate Democrats could see dramatic losses in the next midterm election if Obama allows tax rates to expire.

While some Democratic lawmakers privately question whether the president is a team player, Norquist believes senior advisors will keep the party’s interests at the forefront of his attention.

“The guys around him won’t let him crash the whole thing,” said Norquist.