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Thune: Lawmakers shouldn't let tax pledges block reform

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said that members of Congress who had made pledges like the one championed by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, might have to "revisit" those pledges in order to move ahead on comprehensive tax reform.

"I think if we are serious about doing tax reform, and we should be … obviously, there's going to be lots of people who have made pledges in the past on various tax pledges that have been put out there that are probably going to have to revisit those," Thune said Wednesday on MSNBC. 

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Thune said that in order to accomplish sweeping reforms of the tax code that would drive down tax rates across the board, members shouldn't feel bound to pledges.

"We shouldn't be bound by something that could be interpreted different ways if in fact what we're trying to accomplish is broad-based tax reform that will lead to greater economic activity, greater economic growth, job creation in this country, and therefore more government revenue that would help us deal with the deficit," Thune said.

Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" commits candidates to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses” and “oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

On Tuesday, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) denounced Norquist on the floor of the House, saying he took issue with "the interpreter and enforcer of a pledge."

“Everything must be on the table, and I believe how the ‘pledge’ is interpreted and enforced by Mr. Norquist is a roadblock to realistically reforming our tax code,” Wolf said. “I understand that some may not agree with what I say today. I also know many are not aware of Mr. Norquist’s associations, but my conscience compels me to speak out.”

Wolf went on to denounce Norquist's "unsavory" relationships with figures like former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Norquist and Thune have sparred before, when the conservative activist denounced the senator's 2008 vote for the TARP bailout initiative. 

"Get up and say: 'That is never happening again. Boy, did we get sold a bill of goods, and here is my rule of thumb as to why you know that I know that won't happen again,' " Norquist said in an interview with the Argus Leader. "You can change your mind on one thing in one direction credibly if you explain it."