This item has been updated.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) lashed out at Grover Norquist on the House floor Tuesday morning, accusing the anti-tax activist of blocking real spending reform and reciting a laundry list of controversies and “unsavory people” from Norquist’s past.
Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform, promotes a pledge that has been signed by scores of Republican elected officials vowing to oppose tax increases. The pledge has gained increasing prominence in recent months, as Republicans and Democrats have struggled to craft a broad deficit-reduction plan.
Democrats and some Republicans want such a plan to include a wide-ranging overhaul of the tax code that would eliminate some breaks and loopholes, but Norquist has warned against such changes if they would end up yielding more tax revenue.
Wolf, a longtime advocate for deficit reduction, took to the House floor Tuesday “to voice concerns I have with the influence Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, has on the political process in Washington.”
Wolf said he does not support raising taxes on Americans, either. But, he said, “My concern is with the other individuals, groups and causes with whom Mr. Norquist is associated that have nothing to do with keeping taxes low.”
Wolf, who has also been active on terrorism issues for many years, then ticked off a host of criticisms:
One, Mr. Norquist’s relationship with Jack Abramoff. Mr. Abramoff essentially laundered money through ATR and Mr. Norquist knew it.
Two, his association and representation of terrorist financier and vocal Hamas supporter Abdurahman Alamoudi. He also is associated with terrorist financier Sami Al-Arian, who pled guilty in 2006 to conspiring to provide services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Three, Mr. Norquist’s lobbying on behalf of Fannie Mae.
Four, Mr. Norquist’s representation of the Internet gambling industry.
Five, Mr. Norquist’s advocacy of moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States, including 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheik Mohammed.
“Simply put,” Wolf summarized, “I believe Mr. Norquist is connected with or has profited from a number of unsavory people and groups out of the mainstream.”
Wolf added that he believes Norquist “has used the ATR “pledge” as leverage to advance other issues many Americans would find inappropriate, and when taken as a whole, should give people pause.” And he later asked, “Have we really reached a point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?”
In an interview after Wolf’s speech, Norquist said the Virginia Republican was “frustrated and irritated, and it’s sad.”
Norquist said Wolf — one of just a few House Republicans who have not signed the ATR pledge — was upset because he believes tax increases need to be kept on the table as an option to entice Democrats to participate in deficit-reduction negotiations. Norquist thinks tax increases should be off the table from day one and that Republicans can succeed in getting spending cuts without them.
That disagreement, Norquist said, is why Wolf “got so pissy and got so stupidly personal about a bunch of stuff that’s either not true, old or discredited from the past.”
Wolf isn’t the first Republican to turn against Norquist. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has engaged in a running feud with the activist over whether Coburn’s push to eliminate tax breaks for ethanol constitutes a tax increase.