We all know about Grover Norquist, the anti-tax Svengali who signed almost every GOP lawmaker to an ironclad pledge that they would never ever vote for a tax hike. To small government types, he’s a hero. To Democrats, Norquist is some kind of demon whispering into Republicans’ ears.
But the 56-year old founder of Americans for Tax Reform described his solution for averting the fiscal cliff at a Wednesday breakfast hosted by POLITICO: 1) Broadcast live on C-SPAN the negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and 2) Post the dueling proposals online so voters can read them.
“If you do those two things, you will not get a bad bill,” said Norquist. “Let’s have transparency.”
With those conditions, he theorized that Obama and House Republicans would agree to “extend all the tax cuts for two years and then do fundamental tax reform.”
Most of the negotiations are occurring behind closed doors among White House and congressional aides. Both Obama and Republicans are currently engaged in an extended political campaign to drum up public support, full of photo-ops with bigwig CEOs, small business owners, and middle class voters.
Norquist considers the $109 billion in sequestered budget cuts slated for next year that’s part of the feared fiscal cliff a “good thing.” He didn’t take a firm stand on how to handle the coming expirations of the lower tax rates first enacted in 2001 and 2003. Obama has called on Congress to continue these rates for 98 percent of the country, while letting the top two marginal rates return to higher levels for families earning more than $250,000. Republicans would prefer to extend all of the lower rates, given the fragile state of the economy.
Some Democrats say that if the Bush-era rates expire at the start of 2013, Republicans can then vote for Obama’s plan and not risk breaking the pledge. But Norquist said any move has to “pass the laugh test” with voters, adding that those who interpret Obama’s reelection as a tectonic shift on taxes and a demise of his own influence are mistaken.
“Opposing tax increase has never gone out of fashion, that person’s an idiot,” Norquist said. “I have job security that most people don’t have.”
Here are some other key predictions by Norquist:
• If taxes do increase, the outcry from small business will make “the Tea Party look tame.”
• Public opinion will only turn against Republicans in future elections if their “fingerprints [are] on the murder weapon” of a deal that raises taxes.
• Republicans can use the debt ceiling to put pressure on Obama, extending it piecemeal once the borrowing limit is breached early next year. House Republicans can raise it “monthly if he’s good, weekly if he’s not.”
• Norquist is searching for converts. “My goal is to also have all Democrats take the pledge.”