Noting that he had signed Grover Norquist’s no-new-taxes pledge some 20 years ago, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss said last week that “times have changed significantly.”
“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” Chambliss said in a phone interview with WMAZ in Macon. “And I care about the country that we leave our children and grandchildren. If we do it (Norquist’s) way then we’ll continue in debt and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”
“I’m willing to do the right thing and let the political consequences take care of themselves,” Chambliss said. “If we get this country back on track, that’s the most important thing and the politics will follow that.”
On Sunday, U.S. Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York, joined the bandwagon, appearing on “Meet the Press” to say that “I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss.”
“A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress. For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed a declaration of war against Japan. I’m not going to attack Japan today. The world has changed. And the economic situation is different. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill realized that in the 1980s. I think everything should be on the table. I myself am opposed to tax increases. The fact is that speaker and the majority leader and the president are going to be in a room, trying to find the best package. I’m not going to prejudge it. And I’m just saying we should not be taking ironclad positions.”
And on ABC’s “This Week,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, joined the chorus. In doing so, he brushed aside a veiled threat from Norquist, who had argued that Graham would not dare to vote to raise taxes because he “liked being a senator.”
“I love being a senator, and I want to be a senator that matters for the state of South Carolina and the country. When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece, and Republicans — Republicans should put revenue on the table. We’re this far in debt. We don’t generate enough revenue. Capping deductions will help generate revenue. Raising tax rates will hurt job creation.
So I agree with Grover, we shouldn’t raise rates, but I think Grover is wrong when it comes to we can’t cap deductions and buy down debt. What do you do with the money? I want to buy down debt and cut rates to create jobs, but I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.
Graham, like Chambliss, is up for re-election in 2014, meaning that both men are risking primary challenges by taking such a position. But every Republican who publicly repudiates Norquist weakens the man’s grip on their party and their vote, and that’s long, long overdue.
– Jay Bookman