Norquist: GOP should push delay of individual mandate in shutdown fight

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist weighed in Friday with his recipe for GOP success in the fiscal battle this fall.

A main part of the plan Norquist outlined to the The Hill involves taking a targeted approach when it comes to ending ObamaCare as part of the government shutdown fight.

The powerful anti-tax crusader said he doesn't think it is possible to end ObamaCare or entirely defund it as part of a continuing resolution to fund the government.

But getting President Obama to delay the controversial mandate for individuals to buy insurance could be a winnable concession for Republicans, he said. 

“Obama opened the door to it with a delay for businesses,” Norquist said. “That is a fight everybody should relish.”

If Obama refused to delay the mandate and the standoff resulted in a government shutdown, he would have trouble explaining that position to the public, according to Norquist.

The conservative activist also said the GOP must at all costs keep the sequester levels of spending in the continuing resolution while avoiding the “Trojan horse” of tax reform.

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“Keep the sequester, keep the sequester, keep the sequester,” said Norquist. “If we maintain the sequester, we are on a glide path to a more sustainable situation.”

“The sequester was his idea, it was Obama’s screw up,” Norquist said, adding he doesn’t like indiscriminate cuts either, but that Democrats will offer flexibility once again if the top-line sequester level stays in place.

The House has proposed $967 billion in discretionary spending for the next fiscal year, but the Senate wants $91 billion more. 

Republicans in the House were unable to pass this week a transport and housing bill reflecting those cuts, however. Norquist said this is not a huge cause for concern.

“You don’t need to pass that bill to get the cuts,” he said. “The sequester is the backstop.”

“Can we also do something on ObamaCare? I think that’s very likely,” he said. 

Norquist said the House Republicans can craft a revenue-neutral tax simplification bill, but they should harbor no illusions that Obama would ever sign it. 

“Don’t get seduced by the promises of tax reform,” Norquist said. “Obama has made it clear it is a Trojan horse for a tax increase … He’s announced ahead of time.”

Any talk of a lower corporate tax rate or other enticements must be squelched, Norquist said. 

“It doesn’t matter the quality and quantity of cheese in a rat trap,” he said. 

Ryan Ellis of ATR told The Hill that keeping the sequester cuts will “take most of our chits in any negotiation.”

He added “shutting down the federal government is one of the few things less popular with the American people than ObamaCare.”

“When the government inevitably re-opens with ObamaCare on schedule after a shutdown, all Republicans will have to show for it is a dispirited base, lower poll numbers, and a few groups with fatter email and small donor rolls,” he said.

Elise Viebeck contributed.