Grover Norquist, the GOP, and the payroll tax cut

For the last day or so, a few of us have been trying to get Grover Norquist’s group to say whether GOP opposition to extending the payroll tax cut — which Obama wants — constitutes a “tax increase” and a violation of Norquist’s infamous anti-tax pledge.

Norquist’s spokesman is now clarifying that the group isn’t yet willing to say.

Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes has been signed by virtually every Republican in Congress, and Norquist has clearly stated that the failure to extend the Bush tax cuts would constitute a “tax increase.” The question now is this: With Republicans now opposing an extension of the payroll tax cut, which impacts workers but not employers, will Norquist’s group also declare the GOP opposition tantamount to a tax increase that violates the pledge?

John Kartch, a spokesman for Americans for Tax Reform, tells me that “one would have to see the final legislation” before making the call one way or the other, in order to determine ”what is the net effect on total taxes.”

The problem here, though, is that this doesn’t deal with the possibility of the payroll tax cut simply expiring through Congress doing nothing. If Congress doesn’t extend the payroll tax cut, as Republicans want, it will simply expire on January 1st.

So it’s fair to ask whether Norquist’s group — which wields great influence over Republicans in Congress — thinks that Republicans who favor doing nothing and letting the payroll tax cut expire are hiking taxes and violating the group’s pledge. And for now, the group isn’t prepared to say.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.

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