Is Grover Norquist Losing His Grip on the GOP?

Photograph by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Most Republican members of Congress—279 of them—have signed Grover Norquist’s antitax pledge and sworn never to raise taxes. But there are signs that his legendary sway over GOP lawmakers may be on the wane.

Last week, Congressman Allen West, a Tea Party favorite from Florida, told Politico: ”I signed that thing in the desert of Afghanistan. I got home and they wanted me to sign again during my campaign, and I wouldn’t, and Grover started yelling at my campaign manager. Grover is a nice guy, but I think he’s a little misguided.” (Norquist says he never yelled at anyone who worked for West.)

West joins Wisconsin Congressman Reid Ribble, a fellow signee of the pledge, in speaking out against it. And Scott Rigell, of Virginia, who changed his mind and said he could no longer abide by it. Also: Jeff Fortenberry, of Nebraska, who flat-out refused to sign the pledge last year and explained in a recent interview that he wasn’t opposed to increasing certain taxes. “Removing special-interest loopholes,” Fortenberry told the American Conservative, ”could potentially increase revenues and allow for lower rates.”

So is Norquist concerned about the defectors? Norquist told me on Wednesday that he has spoken with members of Congress who expressed doubts about the pledge—but left feeling committed that none of them would vote for a tax increase. “The pledge is stronger than ever,” he says.

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