In case you’re wondering why the supercommittee talks seem to have broken down, this might be a key reason:
Grover Norquist, a leading anti-tax activist, says Republican leaders in both chambers have assured him that they will not agree to tax increases to reduce the deficit.
Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, has not taken a position against a GOP proposal to raise $300 billion in new net tax increases because he believes it’s a negotiating position, and not real.
“It’s not written down. It’s a negotiating position. It won’t pass the House or the Senate. I’ve talked to the House leadership and the Senate leadership. They’re not going to be passing any tax increases,” Norquist told The Hill on Monday...
“If Republicans raise taxes now, they don’t win the Senate, and if Republicans raise taxes now they might not keep the House,” he said. “It’s the only way to lose the House.”
It’s hard to know whether Norquist is merely inflating his own influence here — he does seem to have a well-cultivated egomaniacal streak — but if this is true, it’s remarkable. There are only a few days left before the supercommitttee deadline, and the talks are at an impasse, because Republicans continue to refuse to make any meaningful concessions when it comes to tax hikes. At this point one of the last remaining paths forward is for GOP leaders to negotiate with Dems in search of a way to make those concessions. Yet here Norquist is claiming GOP leaders are on the phone with him, privately reassuring him that tax hikes are off the table? A Democratic aide I talked to today suggested that this isn’t exactly going to smooth the path to a deal.
But even if this just represents Norquist’s delusions of grandeur run amok, it’s still going to make a deal harder. It seems that a fair number of conservative voters look at Norquist as the arbiter of what does and doesn’t constitute adequate anti-tax zeal on the part of the GOP leadership. So if he’s laid down this marker, it could make it more likely that conservatives view any concession of any kind on revenues as total and complete surrrender, giving negotiators less room to maneuver and making a deal less likely.
At any rate, expect Dems to pounce on Norquist’s megalomaniacal musings as a sign that the supercommittee’s march toward failure can be blamed on Republicans allowing themselves to remain hostage to anti-tax fanaticism.