Norquist denies he has lost momentum in tax scrap

Coburn himself saw progress in the vote, saying the GOP senators who voted with him believed ending the ethanol credit was more important than their pledge.

But Norquist didn’t see it that way, saying on Wednesday he had commitments from Republican leadership in the Senate to immediately push to bring up a separate amendment from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) if the Coburn amendment had passed. 

That amendment would have repealed the estate tax and a mandate on the amount of renewable sources that must be in the country’s fuel supply by 2022. A spokesman for Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell warns control of Senate 'could go either way' in November On The Money: McConnell says it's time to restart coronavirus talks | New report finds majority of Americans support merger moratorium | Corporate bankruptcies on pace for 10-year high McConnell: Time to restart coronavirus talks MORE (R-Ky.), the minority leader, did not return a request for comment.

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ATR had said a vote for both the Coburn and DeMint measures would have been compliant with the pledge and has pointed out several times of late that Coburn said this week that he supported the ethanol mandate.

“Coburn tried. He failed. I’m sure he’ll try again,” Norquist told The Hill, asserting that Coburn had tried to trick his colleagues into voting for a tax increase. “We checkmated him.”

All that said, Republican lawmakers on Wednesday continued to use rhetoric that appeared to contradict ATR’s stance that a tax credit or deduction should only be eliminated if it is offset elsewhere, begging the question of whether GOP lawmakers would be open to getting rid of other tax breaks in a similar manner.

For instance, Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline MORE (R-Tenn.), a member of the GOP leadership, reiterated Wednesday that his ethanol vote was in part for “less federal debt.”

Several GOP senators – and pledge signers – also signaled this week that they voted for the ethanol measure on its own merits and would have done so even if they were not given cover on the pledge by the DeMint amendment, calling the ethanol credit essentially spending in the tax code. 

And several farm-state Republicans who voted for the ethanol credits questioned what they called the contortions Norquist and ATR had gone through to link the DeMint and Coburn measures.

For his part, Norquist said whether or not senators would have voted for the Coburn amendment on its own didn’t matter. “They can have impure thoughts if they want,” he said. 

He added that he had commitments from Senate GOP leadership to not agree to a deal with what he calls a net tax increase: higher rates or ending tax expenditures without an offset.

“Coburn’s going to be out in the cold by his lonesome,” Norquist said. 

For their part, Schumer and Menendez continued to say that any deficit-reduction deal will need to include revenues and called on Republicans who voted with Coburn on ethanol to also support ending tax credits and deductions for the oil-and-gas industry totaling $21 billion over a decade. 

“The dam is officially broken. The knee-jerk, right-wing opposition to getting rid of any taxpayer subsidies is now subsiding,” Schumer said.