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Allegiance to the Constitution, not to the anti-tax pledge

It was encouraging to read that some of this year’s Republican congressional candidates have had the gumption to say that they will refuse to sign Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge [“Faint rift opens in GOP over tax pledge,” front page, May 26]. Those declarations of spine-possession are heartening.  

Acquiescing in the limitations imposed by the Norquist pledge is wholly inconsistent with the obligations of legislative representation. By the oath that all members of Congress must affirm, the member does “solemnly swear” that he “will bear true faith and allegiance to” the Constitution of the United States and that he “take[s] this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

Clearly, a blanket avowal, as required by Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, “to oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses” constitutes a “mental reservation” limiting a legislator’s ability to bear true faith to his implicit constitutional duty to promote the general welfare.

There are times when increasing taxes is, or is part of, the appropriate legislative strategy for the country.  No legislator should make such an unenforceable pledge or allow it to bridle his judgment at critical moments.  

Bernard Ries, Washington

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No-tax pledges are like other signed pledges: They are the mirror image of flip-flopping. They are promises to no longer consider exigencies, no matter what they are, in making a decision on a particular issue.

The presidential candidate I support, Mitt Romney, changed his position on whether to sign a “no-tax” pledge. I do not think such an action should be dispositive as to whether he gets my vote, as I support his politics in a wealth of other positions. But it is disquieting.

In a representative democracy, pledges mean that the politician no longer represents his or her constituency or even his or her own current opinion, but only the opinion the representative held on the day the pledge was signed.

If you want a perfect example of “pandering,” it is the signing under pressure of pledges to never reconsider a position that made sense to an important constituency at a particular place and time.

I oppose raising taxes, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t support a reasonable pairing of drastic spending cuts with a negligible tax increase. Why tie the hands of good legislators so they lose their freedom of choice — a conservative value?

Richard E. Vatz, Towson, Md.

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