A couple of decades ago, scores of legislators, anxious to please their anti-tax constituents, signed Grover Norquist’s pledge that they would not raise taxes — no, never.
Among them was Alabama’s own Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.
Recently, however, a number of prominent Republicans, facing the reality of the federal debt and the widespread support for increasing taxes on the wealthy, have begun to pull back from Norquist and his hard line.
“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss told a TV reporter last week.
“I will violate the pledge,” Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News, “for the good of the country.”
For a moment it appeared that Sessions was also having second thoughts. The other day, he told Fox News, “Oh, I signed it. But we’ve got to deal with the crisis we face. We’ve got to deal with the political reality of the president’s victory.”
But he also said, “I absolutely believe we don’t have to raise taxes now.”
So, how does Alabama’s junior senator plan to “deal with the crisis we face” and “with the political reality” of the victory of a president who ran on a platform of raising taxes on people earning more than $250,000 a year?
Apparently, by falling back on the old GOP promise, as he put it, to “get spending under control through frugal management” — a plan that looks a lot like what is waiting over the “fiscal cliff” that reasonable senators and congressmen are trying to avoid.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., may have offered a solution to the “no-tax pledge” problem. “A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is good for a two-year term only,” he said on Sunday’s Meet the Press. “It is for that Congress,” he said, and that Congress only.
Grover Norquist was not happy. He attacked King for
trying to “weasel out” of the pledge. In retaliation, King called Norquist a “lowlife.”
Name-calling aside, King may have offered other Republicans a way to get out of the corner into which they have painted themselves. History has shown that there are times when taxes need to be raised on certain items and/or on certain people, just as there are times when taxes should be cut. As Rep. King noted, since he signed the pledge, “the world has changed and the economic situation is different.”
We can only hope Sen. Sessions comes around to that point of view.