Coburn says Norquist is 'isolated’ and unable to stop grand bargain

Conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) took on anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist in a stinging op-ed in The New York Times on Monday, arguing that the lobbyist will not be able to prevent a deficit bargain that raises taxes.

The senator argues that Norquist does not give the GOP “marching orders” on taxes and says Democrats are using him as an excuse to avoid striking a grand bargain with Republicans that includes entitlement cuts.

He cites recent statements from Democrats where they said Norquist is pulling the strings.

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“But this story is utterly false. Senate Republicans — and many House Republicans — have repeatedly rejected Mr. Norquist’s strict interpretation of his own pledge, a reading that requires them to defend every loophole and spending program hidden in the tax code. While most Republicans do, of course, oppose tax increases, they are hardly the mindless robots Democrats say they are,” Coburn wrote.

Coburn voted for the Bowles-Simpson deficit-cutting plan in December 2010 and helped develop a draft Gang of Six bargain that would reform the tax code and use some new net revenue to reduce the budget deficit. Norquist has repeatedly denounced Coburn for doing so.

Coburn argues in the piece that some tax loopholes for pet industries need to be eliminated right away, even if the tax increases are not offset by equivalent rate decreases.

Norquist has gotten most elected officials in Congress to sign an anti-tax pledge, and says it means all loophole closing must be offset.

Coburn points out that most Republicans in the Senate have violated this strict interpretation by recently supporting Coburn’s attempt to end tax breaks for movie producers and the ethanol industry.

“As a result, rather than forcing Republicans to bow to him, Mr. Norquist is the one who is increasingly isolated politically,” Coburn says.

He claims that in the end, “Republicans would not walk away from a grand bargain on entitlements and tax reform that would devote a penny of revenue to deficit reduction instead of rate reduction.”