Senate Democratic leaders focus fire on Norquist ahead of House meetings

Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday warned that the nation would fall off a “fiscal cliff” unless Republicans broke their pledges to conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

“You cannot avoid the fiscal cliff if you sign Grover Norquist’s pledge,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the Senate Democrats’ messaging chief.

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Schumer delivered his message flanked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democratic leaders at a press conference intended to highlight meetings scheduled for later in the day between Norquist and House Republicans.

Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform and author of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which holds signatories to voting against any legislation that raises marginal tax rates or eliminates tax deductions without offsetting tax cuts. All but a few Republicans in the Senate and House have signed it.

Reid noted that Mitt Romney, the presumed GOP nominee, said he would reject a deficit-reduction comprising $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in higher taxes.

“Unfortunately, all the Republicans on Grover’s list are at odds with the American people. Three-quarters of Americans support a balanced deficit-reduction package that cuts spending while asking millionaires and corporations to pay their fair share,” he said.

Reid cited a report by the Joint Economic Committee showing the House-passed budget plan crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would raise taxes on middle-class households.

He urged reporters to stake out Norquist on the House side to ask him about whether the Ryan plan violated the tax pledge.

“Grover’s on Capitol Hill today; I would hope someone would ask him that question,” he said.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), who has met with Senate Republican colleagues for more than a year to discuss a broad deficit-reduction package, said Norquist’s pledge has proved a formidable obstacle.

“They’ve all told me the biggest single problem is the pledge that was signed with Grover Norquist,” said Durbin, speaking of GOP colleagues he has spoken with in about 10 recent meetings.

“All the good bipartisan work in the Senate is going to go for naught if the House Republicans, particularly the Tea Party Republicans, are going to wait for the thumbs-up from Grover Norquist,” he said.

“These ironclad pledges to people like Grover Norquist make it impossible to govern this country responsibly."

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