Last week, 40 House Republicans signed a letter saying they were open to revenue increases, marking a notable break from the hegemonic rule of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist. All but six Republican lawmakers signed Norquist’s pledge against tax increases and the GOP leadership seems committed to following orders.
However, more and more Republicans are becoming frustrated the Norquistian shackles that paralyze any discussion of tax reform and the need to raise revenue. Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, GOP Rep. Mike Simpson (ID) — who led the House Republicans in composing the letter — insisted that “you have to” support raising revenue. “The reality is you can’t get to $4 trillion without including additional revenue,” he said. “Revenue is key to this.”
When host Chris Wallace noted that Norquist would be none-too-pleased and asked whether Republicans were willing to “put their political futures at risk” to break that pledge, Simpson laughed: “I didn’t know I was signing a marriage agreement”:
SIMPSON: Well first, the pledge. I signed that in 1998 when I first ran. I didn’t know I was signing a marriage agreement that would last forever and I think that the majority of members of Congress understand that you have to have additional revenue. If you look at the percentage of the GDP that comes into the government right now, it’s about 14 percent — 14 to 15 percent. It’s traditionally been 18 percent, in that neighborhood. So the revenue coming into the government has decreased as a percentage of GDP. And the expenditures that used to be around 19 percent are now up around 25 percent. We’ve got to bring those closer together again.
Norquist is naturally not taking the pushback well, suggesting that one of his critics is senile and drunk. But, given that his pledge helped bring the nation to the edge of default in August and that the GOP’s revenue intransigence caused the first credit downgrade in national history, perhaps the GOP will relegate him to the sidelines. Then again, maybe not.