Norquist: Senate Democrats up in 2014 are ‘hostages’ in year-end tax battle

Norquist: Senate Democrats up in 2014 are ‘hostages’ in year-end tax battle

Conservative anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist says the 20 Senate Democrats facing re-election in 2014 will be the “hostages” who will ensure that President Obama does not raise the Bush-era tax rates.

Democrats have been talking tough in recent days about drawing a hard line on extending the Bush tax rates only for families making below $250,000.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Zeldin says Congress must help states; Fauci's warning; Dems unveil T bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci testifies, discusses students returning in August MORE (Wash.), the Democratic co-chairman of the 2011 deficit-reduction supercommittee, said Monday that Democrats would let income tax rates rise across the board if Republicans refuse to drop their opposition to raising new taxes. Senate Democratic leaders have endorsed her declaration.

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But Norquist thinks vulnerable senators up for re-election in two years will force Democrats to back down, as they did in 2010 by extending virtually all of the Bush tax cuts for two years.

“Last time Republicans won the House and [were] a little strengthened in the Senate and Obama folded completely. We’re going to be stronger this time than after last time; our hostages are the 20 Democrats up in ’14. We’ll send them either piece by piece or one at a time over to the White House to negotiate,” Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and author of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, told The Hill in an interview.

The Bush tax cuts are due to expire at the end of the year and while the Senate will vote this week on competing proposals to extend the rates for families earning under $250,000 or to extend all the rates, nothing is expected to become law until after the election.



A similar scenario played out in 2010 when Democrats insisted they would not extend the tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest families. They softened their stance during the lame-duck session after Republicans picked up a mass of seats in the midterm election.


Lawmakers expect to decide whether to pass another extension this December and the Bush tax cuts could be the first significant vote of the 2014 cycle.

Democrats argue they will be in a stronger position to negotiate. In 2010, Obama wanted to avoid the prospect of raising taxes before his re-election and Democratic lawmakers acquiesced to a deal he struck with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPence: Next coronavirus relief bill would need legal shield for businesses GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill State Department scrutiny threatens Pompeo's political ambitions MORE (R-Ky.) to extend the rates for all incomes.  

They think Obama will drive a harder bargain this fall because he does not have to worry about winning a second term.

Norquist argues the roles will be reversed this year. He predicts endangered Senate Democrats will put pressure on Obama not to let all the income tax rates expire.

“The Democrats in the House and Senate went along with saving Obama by giving a two-year extension to the Bush tax cuts in ’10. That was to save Obama,” he said. “They were playing team ball to help Obama across the finish line, now it’s Obama’s turn,” he said.

Senate Democrats face an election map in 2014 that appears more challenging than the 2012 map.

Twenty Democratic senators are up for re-election in two years compared to only 13 Republicans. Many of those Democrats face tough races while the most vulnerable Republican is McConnell, who is running in a state where Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Memo: Activists press Biden on VP choice Biden takes page from Trump with public auditions for VP slot Why Trump, GOP are running into trouble in Arizona MORE (R-Ariz.) captured 57-percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election.

Threatened Democrats in 2014 include Sens. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE (Alaska), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenPolitical world mourns loss of comedian Jerry Stiller Maher to Tara Reade on timing of sexual assault allegation: 'Why wait until Biden is our only hope?' Democrats begin to confront Biden allegations MORE (Minn.), Tim JohnsonTimothy (Tim) Peter JohnsonCornell to launch new bipartisan publication led by former Rep. Steve Israel Trump faces tough path to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac overhaul Several hurt when truck runs into minimum wage protesters in Michigan MORE (S.D.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Tom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 MORE (Ark.), John RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (W.Va.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Pass the Primary Care Enhancement Act The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden seeks to tamp down controversy over remarks about black support MORE (N.H.).

Other Democrats are running in Republican-leaning states — Sens. Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBaucus backing Biden's 2020 bid Bottom line Overnight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms MORE (Mont.) and Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuA decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ MORE (La.) — or swing states — Sens. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganThe Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control Tillis wins North Carolina Senate primary Coronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 MORE (N.C.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGrenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees 'strong likelihood' of another relief package; Warner says some businesses 'may not come back' at The Hill's Advancing America's Economy summit MORE (Va.).

Senate Republicans, by contrast, face relatively easy re-elections in 2014. Only Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill The other dangerous virus infecting our country The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December MORE, a third-term incumbent who won 61 percent of the vote in 2008, represents a state Obama carried.

This year, Democrats have many seats to defend in conservative-leaning states but they also have a chance to win GOP-held seats in Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Arizona.

Norquist and other Republican strategists believe Senate Democrats could see dramatic losses in the next midterm election if Obama allows tax rates to expire.

While some Democratic lawmakers privately question whether the president is a team player, Norquist believes senior advisors will keep the party’s interests at the forefront of his attention.

“The guys around him won’t let him crash the whole thing,” said Norquist.