Norquist’s Tax Pledge Draws Fewer Freshmen: BGOV Barometer

Norquist’s Tax Pledge Draws Fewer Freshmen
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, in his office in Washington. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Fewer Republican freshmen in Congress are joining the ranks of anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist by signing his 26-year-old no-new-taxes pledge.

The BGOV Barometer shows that 26 out of 38 Republicans who will be freshman members of the House or Senate in January have signed the anti-tax pledge, compared with 96 out of 99 in the group that started in the 112th Congress in January 2011. So far, 24 of 35 Republicans newly elected to the House have signed, along with two of the party’s three new senators in the incoming 113th Congress.

Americans for Tax Reform, the Washington-based group headed by Norquist, says on its website the pledge, which dates back to 1986, “is considered binding” as long as a lawmaker holds the office to which he or she was elected when signing. The pledge “has become de rigueur for Republicans seeking office,” the organization says.

Among Republicans who don’t go along with that is Susan Brooks of Indiana, who will begin her first term in Congress in January.

“I am generally opposed to tax increases, and I said that throughout the campaign trail,” she said yesterday in a phone interview. “But that doesn’t mean I need to sign a pledge to demonstrate my desire not to raise taxes. I know that governing can be very difficult, and sometimes difficult decisions have to be made.”

Fewer Takers

Norquist is getting fewer new takers while some previous Republican signers are distancing themselves from the pledge, in which lawmakers commit to oppose tax increases and to use any revenue from limiting deductions and credits to reduce tax rates.

Representative Chris Gibson, a Republican first elected to Congress in 2010 from New York’s 20th congressional district, says he’s no longer bound by the pledge he signed for his freshman term in Congress. After district boundaries were redrawn, Gibson was elected this year from the 19th district. While his position on taxes hasn’t changed, Gibson has no plans to sign a new pledge, said his spokeswoman, Stephanie Valle.

“The pledge is to your constituents of a numbered district,” she said.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Nov. 25 on ABC’s “This Week” program that he “will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.”

“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who is seeking a bipartisan deficit reduction plan, told a Georgia television station on Nov. 21.

Adherents Remaining

Norquist still has prominent Republican decision-makers among his pledge adherents, including House Speaker John Boehner, his deputy House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

A list published by Americans for Tax Reform shows that the next Congress will have at least 218 House pledge-signers, the exact number needed to constitute a majority in the 435-seat chamber. There will be at least 234 Republicans in the House next year, down from 241 in the outgoing Congress. The Republican tally in the Senate will be 39, not enough to block legislation through a filibuster without help from some non-signers.

John Kartch, a spokesman at Americans for Tax Reform, didn’t respond to e-mails and phone calls seeking comment.

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