By Bernie Becker - 11/11/11 12:21 AM EST
Grover Norquist isn’t worried about a GOP supercomittee proposal on taxes because he thinks Democrats want the panel to fail to reach a deal.
Recent tax proposals from the GOP members of the supercommittee would seem at odds with the anti-tax pledge overseen by Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, which has been signed by the vast majority of congressional Republicans.
But Norquist, perhaps the country’s most influential anti-tax activist, said Thursday that he isn’t concerned about the GOP proposal because he thinks Democrats believe it’s to their political advantage for the supercommittee to fall short.
“The modern Democratic Party has made it clear that they want a trillion-dollar tax increase. Their position is set up to make this fail.”
In the interview, Norquist, who said he had been talking regularly to supercommittee members, also shrugged off a letter signed recently by roughly 40 House Republicans that called on the panel to craft a broad package and look at revenues.
The deficit-reduction panel has until Nov. 23 to come to an agreement, and must find at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings to avoid automatic across-the-board cuts in that amount.
“We are going to get 1.2 trillion in spending restraint, either out of the committee or through the sequester, so taxpayers will win,” Norquist said.
The comments from the anti-tax crusader come as Democrats and Republicans on the supercommittee have essentially had a weeklong back-and-forth, with each side dismissing the other’s offer as insufficient.
They also surface as Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) have tried to cast Norquist as the ringleader for congressional Republicans, whom Democrats have termed intractable on taxes.
But Norquist said Thursday that lawmakers pledge not to raise taxes to their constituents, not to him or ATR.
“I’m not in the way of a tax increase,” he said. “The commitment from congressmen and senators stands in the way of a tax increase.”
GOP members of the panel said this week they would consider including hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues directly earmarked for deficit reduction in a $1.2 trillion package.
But Democrats rejected the idea, saying proposals included — such as one to decrease the top individual tax rate to 28 percent — heavily benefitted the wealthiest taxpayers.
The latest Democratic framework, meanwhile, is a $2.3 trillion package that tries to take advantage of savings from ending the wars in the Middle East, while also including $1 trillion in revenue and making cuts to defense and entitlement programs.
On Thursday, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), co-chairman of the supercommittee, chided his Democratic colleagues for trying to pair that level of revenues with cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.
For his part, Norquist said Democrats are in no hurry to work through the deadlocks, asserting that, given the sluggish economy, President Obama would prefer to run against a do-nothing Congress.
But the anti-tax activist also declined to weigh in on whether he could back the sort of plan — with significant revenues — that supercommittee Republicans have outlined.
“Because it’s not written down, because it has all sorts of moving parts, it’d be inappropriate to talk about a hypothetical,” Norquist said. “Since it’s not going to happen, it doesn’t keep me up at night.”
Norquist has also long sounded more open to defense cuts than some other conservative activists. And Thursday he said the Pentagon could wring savings from plenty of areas, such as retiree benefits.
“You can spend money and call it defense, and it doesn’t have anything to do with defending the country,” Norquist said. “We need to make sure we’re not wasting money on anything.”