Chambliss defends tax pledge stance, says he won’t be ‘dictated to’

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on Saturday defended his decision to break with conservative activist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, telling constituents he would not be “dictated to by anybody in Washington.”

“I think that you sent me to Washington to think for myself. And I want to vote the way you want me to vote,” Chambliss said to a group of local constituents at a Cobb County Republican party event, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I don’t want to be dictated to by anybody in Washington, as to how I’m going to vote on anything.”

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Chambliss is one of a number of high-profile Republicans who have said they would ditch the Americans for Tax Reform pledge in order to reach a deal to avoid the looming “fiscal cliff” of tax hikes and automatic spending cuts.

Lawmakers and the White House are working to reach a deficit-reduction package before Jan. 1, when the nation approaches the fiscal cliff.

Norquist, though, has hit back at Republicans who say they would break the pledge, warning them that the oath was made to their constituents and not to his anti-tax group. 

“If he plans to vote for higher taxes to pay for Obama-sized government he should address the people of Georgia and let them know that he plans to break his promise to them,” Norquist said last week of Chambliss. 

Norquist’s pledge, signed by a majority of congressional Republicans, asks lawmakers to promise not to increase marginal income tax rates or to eliminate loopholes or deductions without corresponding tax-rate reductions. 

But Chambliss argues that the nation’s fiscal health has worsened since most lawmakers first signed the pledge.

“When I said I care about my country more than I do about a 20-year-old pledge, that’s what I’m talking about. Things have changed in 20 years. We didn’t owe $17 trillion 20 years ago. We’re in a different world today,” Chambliss said.

“It’s a violation of the pledge because I say we’ve got to pay down some of our mortgage with that money. If we don’t pay down our mortgage, the debt is going to go up and up and up,” he added. 

On Thursday, the White House shared Obama’s initial proposal in talks, which called for $1.6 trillion in tax hikes, $50 billion in economic stimulus spending and $400 billion in spending cuts.

Republican leaders quickly rejected the deal, saying they needed stronger spending cuts and reform of entitlement programs to match their offer of increased revenues.

Republicans have said they are open to raising new revenues in a deficit deal, but have said those should come from eliminating loopholes and deductions, not from raising tax rates. Democrats, however, are insistent that a deal include higher rates for the top 2 percent of income earners.