Bad blood between Coburn, Norquist appears here to stay

"He's like a fly on the wall. If you're scared of Grover Norquist you have no business being up here,” Coburn told ABC News this week.

Norquist, meanwhile, shot back on Friday that the Oklahoma Republican had been misleading in his interview and was trying “to make the case that Americans were undertaxed and deserved an additional whuppin’ from the tax collector.”

“Sen. Coburn, we are not undertaxed.  Washington is spending too much,” Norquist added in his statement.

At issue, still, is Coburn’s contention that any bipartisan deficit-reduction plan would contain an increase in tax revenues. Norquist had sharply criticized Coburn for his participation in the Gang of Six, which the senator is not taking a sabbatical from.

The senator, like many other Republican officeholders, has signed an ATR pledge essentially saying he would not vote for to eliminate a tax credit or deduction without a corresponding reduction in tax rates. 

But in his recent interview with ABC News, Coburn had said that he opposed raising marginal tax rates, but also signaled that he could get behind a plan that more revenue could come from rolling back so-called tax expenditures. 

John Hart, Coburn’s spokesman, signaled to The Hill in a Friday statement that the senator’s upcoming deficit-cutting plan – which Coburn has indicated will cut $9 trillion over a decade – would deal with taxes, though he declined to speculate whether the Joint Committee on Taxation would deem that proposal revenue-neutral. 

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Hart also appeared to criticize the large number of credits and deductions in the tax code, while lashing out at Norquist in the process. 

“Grover’s definition of a ‘tax increase’ is a defense of tax earmarks, tax complexity and progressive activist government in which special interest lobbyists are paid to keep the code complex and government intrusive,” he said. 

But ATR’s Ryan Ellis dismissed that line to The Hill on Friday, saying his group also believes many tax credits and deductions should be shown the door.

“We agree that they have bad economic outcomes. He just needs a tax cut offset,” Ellis said. “Failure to keep the action revenue neutral results in more money going to the appropriation committees to spend.”