Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf (R), one of six House Republicans who hasn’t signed Americans for Tax Reform’s no-taxes pledge, took to the House floor today and slammed ATR President Grover Norquist, accusing Norquist of working with “unsavory characters” and pushing a pledge that makes it harder for Congress to achieve meaningful deficit reduction and tax reform.
Wolf said the Taxpayer Protection Pledge created by Norquist and ATR has had the effect of “paralyzing Congress” and making it impossible to even discuss ways to reform the tax code:
WOLF: 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. When Senator Tom Coburn recently fought to eliminate the special interest ethanol tax subsidy, who led the opposition? Mr. Norquist. [...]
Have we really reached the point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?
Wolf isn’t the first Republican to eviscerate Norquist for his strict no-tax pledge. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) had a high-profile spat with Norquist during deficit reduction talks this summer, and multiple House Republicans have distanced themselves from the pledge as well. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) said the pledge “restrains your ability to think creatively” about solutions. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) said he wouldn’t sign the pledge because members of Congress “have to have the flexibility to do the right thing for the American people.” Constituents of representatives who have signed the pledge have challenged them at recent town halls, asking why members of Congress are more loyal to Norquist than to the residents of their districts.
Wolf is, unfortunately, correct that Norquist’s pledge has paralyzed the GOP, as Republicans remain shackled to the no-taxes platform and continue to oppose any measure that would reduce the nation’s deficit by raising tax revenues, whether through tax increases or by ending expensive subsidies. That intransigence is what took the nation to the brink of default in August and caused the first downgrade of the nation’s credit rating in American history.