Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s role in shaping economic and tax policy in a Mitt Romney administration would be “similar” to the one taken by former Vice President Dick Cheney in national security issues during George W. Bush’s presidency, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist said.
“I think that he would certainly have a large footprint,” Norquist said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” airing this weekend.
Norquist, an anti-tax advocate, predicted that as president Romney would push through a comprehensive tax-code overhaul based on elements of Ryan’s budget plan “with the rough edges taken off and changes here and there.”
Norquist, 55, said such a measure would be similar to the tax-cut package enacted in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan based on a proposal put forth by then-Representative Jack Kemp of New York and then-Senator William Roth of Delaware, both Republicans. Reagan endorsed the Kemp-Roth plan during his 1980 presidential campaign.
If Romney ousts President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 election, his administration and Congress early in 2013 will strike a long-term deficit reduction deal that doesn’t include a net revenue increase, Norquist predicted.
“It’ll look like the Ryan plan,” he said. “It will not have a tax increase in it.”
Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman who is the most influential Republican in Congress on fiscal matters, wrote the House-passed budget proposal that would reduce top tax rates for individual and corporate income to 25 percent from 35 percent and eliminate the alternative minimum tax. His plan, rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate, would reduce the number of individual income-tax brackets to two from six, with the bottom rate set at 10 percent.
An advantage of Ryan’s budget is that it already has been scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and “it’s been written down,” Norquist said.
“The entire Republican caucus in the House and Senate has vetted it, can speak to it, has voted for it once,” he said. “So it’s sort of been through the process.”
If Obama wins re-election, the fight over how to balance the federal budget and overhaul the U.S. tax code would “look an awful lot like what it did for the last two years,” with Republican lawmakers “saying we’re not going to raise your taxes and we’re not letting you spend the money you want to spend,” Norquist said.
Norquist is the architect of a pledge not to raise taxes that all except six House Republicans and seven Senate Republicans have signed, and which Democrats have criticized as the reason Republicans oppose revenue increases.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, has said he would be willing to eliminate some tax breaks or raise fees, in violation of the pledge, to avert $54.7 billion in automatic cuts to defense programs set to start taking effect in January. The cuts are part of the first installment of $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to defense and non-defense programs required by the 2011 law that raised the federal debt ceiling.
Norquist said he spoke to Graham and told him his position wasn’t based in reality.
“He has this imaginary unicorn that he hopes to reach,” Norquist said, adding that Graham wanted Democrats to give him “trillions of dollars of entitlement reforms, less spending” in exchange for a “teeny tax increase.”
“If he wants to go out and look for unicorns, he can have that conversation,” Norquist said. “He’s going to be lonely out there, because there are no Democrats and no Republicans in that zone.”
Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Discussing Romney’s recent overseas trip, Norquist said Romney “was doing several things” and got “mixed up” when during his stop in Israel, the presumed Republican presidential nominee said cultural differences partially explained what he characterized as Israel’s economic superiority to Palestine.
“It was an odd place to make that case,” Norquist said, “I mean, go back 20 years, the Israeli economy pre-Netanyahu’s economic reforms was not doing very well. The culture didn’t change. The tax code changed, and the regulatory base changed, and the rule of law changed and got better in Israel.”