One of the most influential special interest groups on the right is Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), which advocates for lower taxes and downsizing the government. ATR’s “flagship project” is the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” which conservative candidates for legislative office use to promise to never, under any circumstances, support any sort of tax increase. ATR brags that more than 1,100 officeholders have signed the pledge, in addition to countless candidates for public office.
Yet in the Republican primary runoff in the race to replace the Rep. John Linder (R-GA), who announced his retirement earlier this year, the front-runner Rob Woodall has refused to sign the ATR pledge. In his refusal to sign on, Woodall explained that if he signed the pledge, his “ability to eliminate destructive and wasteful tax policy is…hindered.” He cited a “dumb” 2009 “$6,500 golf cart tax credit” that was paid for by “borrowed the dollars from China and Japan.”
Woodall’s willingness to challenge ATR’s far-right anti-tax orthodoxy to challenge poor tax policy like the golf cart tax credit set off Norquist. In an angry statement, ATR’s founder yesterday accused Woodall of being “outside the Republican mainstream” and aligning himself to “political left of 95% of the Republicans in the U.S. House, and 4 of its Democrats”:
On August 10th, Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer Jody Hice faces Rob Woodall in a run off for the Republican nomination in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District. Woodall recently refused to sign the Pledge leaving the door wide-open to tax hikes. His decision puts him outside the Republican mainstream in the U.S. House as over 95% of Republicans have signed the Pledge. […]
Republican candidate Rob Woodall (GA-07) has refused to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform. The Pledge, signed by 95% of House Republicans, commits signers to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses…and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.” In refusing to sign, Woodall aligns himself to the political left of 95% of the Republicans in the U.S. House, and 4 of its Democrats.
It is important to note that Woodall is far from progressive. He wants to eliminate the national income tax and replace it with a sales tax, backs revoking birthright citizenship, and is strongly committed to expanding gun rights. He even proudly co-authored a book with hate radio host Neal Boortz.
Yet in a Republican Party beholden to far-right ideology and special interest groups like ATR, it appears that power brokers in the Republican Party no longer tolerate dissent. For his part, Woodall has pushed back against this extremism. When his opponent Jody Hice, who has signed ATR’s pledge, started campaigning with billboards comparing Obama to a Soviet leader, Woodall condemned the billboard and explained, “I think that’s going to hurt him, in terms of being taken seriously in the halls of Congress.”