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 MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate Dems press Sessions for records on racial discrimination complaints Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press Overnight Health Care: Drug price fight heats up | Skepticism over drug companies' pledges | Ads target HHS secretary over child separations | Senate confirms VA pick 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senator reviving effort to rein in Trump on tariffs The Hill's 12:30 Report GOP’s midterm strategy takes shape 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 Sidney McCainComey: Trump revoking Brennan's security clearance shows 'he will punish people who disagree with him' Businesses fear blowback from Russia sanctions bill GOP’s midterm strategy takes shape MORE (R-Ariz.) captured 57-percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election.

Threatened Democrats in 2014 include Sens. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska congressional candidate has never visited the state: AP Former Alaska senator jumps into governor race Overnight Energy: Trump directs Perry to stop coal plant closures | EPA spent ,560 on customized pens | EPA viewed postcard to Pruitt as a threat MORE (Alaska), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report — GOP seeks to hold Trump’s gains in Midwest states Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries Tina Smith defeats former Bush ethics lawyer in Minnesota Dem primary MORE (Minn.), Tim JohnsonTimothy (Tim) Peter JohnsonSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Court ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit MORE (S.D.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford 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 RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Overnight 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 MORE (W.Va.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenBusinesses fear blowback from Russia sanctions bill Hillicon Valley: Trump officials deliver show of force on election security | Apple hits trillion | How fake Facebook groups manipulated real activists | Senate group seeks new Russia sanctions Senators introduce bill to slap 'crushing' new sanctions on Russia MORE (N.H.).

Other Democrats are running in Republican-leaning states — Sens. Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusJudge boots Green Party from Montana ballot in boost to Tester Clients’ Cohen ties become PR liability Green Party puts Dem seat at risk in Montana MORE (Mont.) and Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuLobbying world Former New Orleans mayor: It's not my 'intention' to run for president Dems grasp for way to stop Trump's Supreme Court pick MORE (La.) — or swing states — Sens. Kay HaganKay Ruthven Hagan2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Politics is purple in North Carolina MORE (N.C.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump draws bipartisan fire over Brennan Hillicon Valley: Trump revokes Brennan's security clearance | Twitter cracks down on InfoWars | AT&T hit with crypto lawsuit | DHS hosts election security exercise Overnight Defense: Trump revokes Brennan's security clearance | Brennan fires back: 'I will not relent' | Defense firms bullish on 'Space Force' | Treasury targets Chinese, Russian firms for helping North Korea MORE (Va.).

Senate Republicans, by contrast, face relatively easy re-elections in 2014. Only Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump draws bipartisan fire over Brennan Kavanaugh has 'productive' meeting with key swing votes Budowsky: Collins, Murkowski and Kavanaugh 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.