U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey on Thursday forcefully defended the virtue of a no-taxes pledge that some fellow Republican, including at least one Georgia GOP lawmaker, believe is obstructing substantive …
For a southern Republican supremely self-aware that his reelection effort is virtually assured primary opposition, Sen. Saxby Chambliss did the unthinkable this week: he thumbed his nose at an anti-tax pledge considered sacrosanct among many of the same conservative activists with whom he has been tediously mending relations.
Chambliss told a Georgia television station that resolving the year-end budget crisis trumped both no-taxes vow he made two decades earlier and his own political fortunes.
“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” Chambliss told Macon CBS affiliate WMAZ on Wednesday. “If we do it [Grover Norquist’s] way, then we’ll continue in debt and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”
Thirty-eight of the Senate’s 47 Republican members have signed the pledge pushed by Americans for Tax Reform, the powerful anti-tax lobby steered by Norquist.
But Chambliss, a member of the bipartisan “gang of eight” seeking a compromise to the impending fiscal cliff, said the pledge’s caucus was impeding any meaningful progress.
“Norquist has no plan to pay this debt down,” he said. His play says you continue to add to the debt, and I just have a fundamental disagreement about that and I’m willing to do the right thing and let the political consequences take care of themselves.”
In a statement provided to Tipsheet through a spokesman, Norquist said his position was being misrepresented and that Chambliss made the no-new-taxes vow to his constituencies, not any special interest.
“If he plans to vote for higher taxes to pay for Obama-sized government he should address the people and Georgia and let them know that he plans to break this promise to them,” Norquist said. “The senator’s reference to me is odd. His promise is to the people of Georgia.”
He pointed to a 2011 letter from Chambliss in which the Peach State pol said new federal revenue should be the result of conservative tax policies.
“[W]e look forward to again working with you and all interested parties to support a proposal where any increases in revenue generation will be the result of the pro-growth effects of lower individual and corporate tax rates for all Americans,” Chambliss’ letter reads.
Norquist said the only plan he has endorsed is the Ryan plan, the same proposal for which Chambliss voted.
The question of Norquist’s solution to the budget crunch notwithstanding, the senator’s decidedly confrontational comments took some Georgia Republicans aback.
“Saxby watched Lugar fall and knows his right flank is nothing to ignore,” one prominent Republican told Tipsheet. “That’s why he has been reaching out to tea party activists back home. But whatever good will he may have earned through that reconciliation was just shot to hell.”
Norquist’s entire statement is posted in full below.
– James Richardson
Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist told Georgia state lawmakers in no uncertain terms this week that a vote to reauthorize the sunsetting hospital bed fee would violate a no-taxes pledge many …