Signing the anti-tax pledge promulgated by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform — which stipulates that the signee will, under no circumstances, approve a tax increase — has almost become a must-take step for Republican politicians. Norquist is a kingmaker of sorts in right-wing circles, as he decides which policies do and do not violate the pledge.
As Tanya Somanader and Zaid Jilani put it, “Shackling Republicans to his anti-tax pledge, Norquist is dictating to Republicans that they cannot close a single tax loophole or allow one tax cut to expire, not even to entice Democrats into agreeing to much larger spending cuts.” However, not every Republican congressman is enamored with Norquist’s approach. During a town hall yesterday, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) explained that he has disavowed Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, which he had previously signed, because “it’s too constraining”:
In answer to one question, the 1st District Republican congressman revealed he informed Grover Norquist and his anti-tax organization he no longer is committed to that organization’s pledge to oppose any form of tax increases.
“I did sign that pledge when I was first running” for the House in 2004, Fortenberry said. “I no longer sign any pledges.”
A pledge “restrains your ability to think creatively,” he said, noting Norquist attempts to interpret and define what is considered a tax increase.
“I informed the organization I don’t consider (the earlier pledge) binding,” Fortenberry said. “I don’t care to be associated with it. It’s too constraining.”
Fortenberry is not the only Republican to publicly clash with Norquist recently. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) admonished Norquist and ATR for opposing cuts to ethanol subsidies. “I think you all think [Norquist] has a whole lot more hold than I think he has,” Coburn told the media, adding, “taxpayers should be encouraged that Republican senators overwhelmingly rejected the ludicrous argument that eliminating tax earmarks is a tax increase.”