EXCLUSIVE: Tea Party Icon Allen West Says He’s Willing ‘To Talk About Raising Taxes’ To Lower Debt And Deficit

POMPANO BEACH, Florida — Perhaps the most beloved member of the freshman Republican class, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) made a startling announcement on Tuesday: he’s willing to discuss raising taxes in order to address the nation’s budget shortfall.

The Tea Party congressman’s concession came at a small town hall meeting in Pompano Beach. West stipulated that before he would consider increasing taxes, he would have to be satisfied that Congress had first “eliminated a lot of that waste, fraud, and abuse.” Once that threshold was met, West said it’d be time “to talk about raising taxes as a means to make sure we keep our debt and our deficit at a manageable level”:

QUESTIONER: How can we balance the budget without raising taxes?

WEST: […] There are many things we can do in Washington DC. Last year, as a wet-behind-the-ears freshman, by April I found three wasteful programs in the Department of Defense. It saved the American taxpayer $357 million over 10 years. But, the question is this. If every single member in the House of Representatives, every single member in the Senate, went in on the committee of jurisdiction and oversight and they did the same thing, find $350 million in wasteful programs over the next 10 years, get it and eliminate it, think what happens for our budget. We get ourselves on the road to being able to balance this thing . Now, once we get to a point where we have waxed out the federal government, we have eliminated a lot of that waste, fraud, and abuse, then it certainly comes to the American people to talk about raising taxes as a means to make sure we keep our debt and our deficit at a manageable level.

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The fact that West’s announcement is so surprising speaks to just how intransigent congressional Republicans have become when addressing tax and budget issues.

One of the primary reasons for their obstinance is because of a single anti-tax crusader in Washington DC, Grover Norquist. Nearly every Republican in Congress has signed Norquist’s pledge to “oppose and vote against tax increases.” Just seven House GOPers and seven in the Senate have refused.

Still, cracks are beginning to appear. Other House Republicans have shown similar angst about Norquist’s pledge recently, despite being signatories. They include Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Timothy Johnson (R-IL), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Charles Boustany (R-LA), Mike Simpson (R-ID), and Frank Wolf (R-VA).