Norquist: Vote for Boehner's 'Plan B' won't break tax pledge

Americans for Tax Reform, the group founded by the anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, said Wednesday that Speaker John Boehner’s proposal to allow taxes for the highest earners to rise would not violate its anti-tax pledge.

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Ryan Ellis, ATR’s tax policy director, said that the “sole purpose” of the House proposal — which would allow rates on annual income above $1 million to go up at year’s end — was to prevent tax increases for most people.

ATR, which oversees an anti-tax pledge signed by the vast majority of congressional Republicans, also noted that the House had already voted to extend all income tax rates. 

“When viewed with this in mind, and considering this tax bill contains no tax increases of any kind — in fact, it permanently prevents them — matters become more clear,” Ellis wrote. 


“Having finally seen actual legislation in writing, ATR is now able to make its determination about a legislative proposal related to the fiscal cliff.”

Norquist’s move could give cover to Boehner, with it still far from certain whether the Speaker can find enough Republican votes to push his “Plan B” through the House.

But two other conservative groups announced their opposition to Boehner's plan. One of them, Heritage Action, said it will negatively score a vote on Plan B in its annual ratings card.

The Club for Growth said it will also be scoring the bill and called Plan B “anti-growth.”

“It increases tax rates for those making over $1 million while also raising taxes on capital gains and dividends. We don't buy into the Washington-speak, suggesting that these are actually tax cuts,” the group said.

Under the ATR pledge, signers say they will oppose any efforts to increase marginal tax rates for individuals and businesses. In all, 238 House members and 41 senators – all but three of them Republicans – in the current Congress have signed the pledge, according to a list on ATR’s website. 

At the same time, the statement from ATR does appear to signal something of a shift on tax legislation for Norquist. The ATR founder rejected out of hand an idea from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) earlier this year that lawmakers allow all Bush-era rates to expire as scheduled at the end of the year, and then pass a measure to reduce most rates.

That, Murray said, would make Norquist and the ATR pledge irrelevant to the tax cut discussion. 

Norquist said that idea “didn’t pass the laugh test,” and has suggested in other interviews that allowing any tax rates to expire would be considered a tax increase by ATR.

“I think the American people would look at anything that raised taxes from where they are today to be a tax increase,” Norquist told Talking Points Memo in June. “Everybody knows this has been coming.”