GOP Rep. Blasts Norquist’s Anti-Tax Pledge As ‘Disingenuous And Irresponsible’

Rep. Timothy Johnson (R-IL)

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” — which states that the signing lawmaker will never raise taxes for any reason, ever — has held Republicans in lockstep against tax increases in recent years. But with the country facing large deficits and plunging tax revenue, a few Republicans have publicly broken with Norquist, acknowledging that his position is totally unrealistic.

The pledge “restrains your ability to think creatively,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). “I don’t care to be associated with it.” “I will not sign another pledge,” said Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA). “We have to have the flexibility to do the right thing for American people.” “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?” asked Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA).

Today, Norquist lost another devotee, with Rep. Timothy Johnson (R-IL) saying that while he signed the pledge for his first election, he now considers Norquist’s stance “disingenuous and irresponsible“:

I would never in a million years have considered this as some kind of a locked-in-granite pledge. Frankly, I didn’t even remember it. That shows you how obscure it was to me,” Johnson said.

“My understanding was then, as I remember it, and certainly now, is that nobody could possibly ever in a million years, in their wildest imagination, expect you to sign something that was right before a primary election and then you’d be locked in on that position the whole rest of your career. Particularly something like taxes and particularly when the national debt 10 and a half years ago was $6 trillion and now it’s going to be $17 trillion.”[…]

“Nobody could lock themselves in perpetuity into a position like that. That’s like saying you’d never vote for armed intervention in a foreign country, until we get attacked”…“I’m not saying I’m even committed now to a tax increase, but I think anybody who doesn’t indicate their willingness to look at revenues — expiration of tax loopholes, tax credits, increase in contribution to Social Security, which is a tax, and otherwise — would be disingenuous and irresponsible.

Several Republican members of Congress have felt heat at their town halls for their fealty to Norquist’s pledge. “You work for North Dakota residents, not some guy from another state,” a constituent told Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND).

During an interview last week with Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, Norquist — who believes that President Obama should be impeached if he doesn’t agree to extend the Bush tax cuts again — said that he would not approve of a tax increase, even if the revenue went towards fighting a war, aiding victims of a natural disaster, or to combat “beard flu.” Last year, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) got into a high-profile spat with Norquist regarding the latter’s insistence that cutting subsidies for ethanol would constitute a tax increase, calling Norquist’s position “ludicrous.”