Rather than lose face, Norquist gives in on Boehner’s Plan B

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist gives in on tax rates.
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist gives in on tax rates.
Jim Watson / AFP Photo

Grover Norquist, president of the anti-tax lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform, softened his previously unyielding stance on raising tax rates Wednesday, when it comes to incomes over $1 million.

Norquist and ATR released a statement Wednesday confirming that a vote for Speaker John Boehner’s Plan B–a fiscal cliff counter-offer from Republicans which would allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for incomes making over $1 million per year–is not a violation of Norquist’s infamous Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Here is the full statement:

ATR has consistently maintained that individual Members of Congress make a pledge to their constituents to oppose and vote against tax increases. The House this week will vote on a tax bill. This legislation–popularly known as “Plan B”–permanently prevents a tax increase on families making less than $1 million per year. Republicans supporting this bill are this week affirming to their constituents in writing that this bill–the sole purpose of which is to prevent tax increases–is consistent with the pledge they made to them. In ATR’s analysis, it is extremely difficult–if not impossible–to fault these Republicans’ assertion.

In particular, in this Congress the House has already voted twice to prevent any tax increases on any American. When viewed with this in mind, and considering this tax bill contains no tax increases of any kind–in fact, it permanently prevents them–matters become more clear. Having finally seen actual legislation in writing, ATR is now able to make its determination about a legislative proposal related to the fiscal cliff. ATR will not consider a vote for this measure a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

ATR quickly noted, in an update to the statement, that their position “is not to be misconstrued as an endorsement of any legislation.” The update may be in response to the outcry form leading conservative groups, like the Club For Growth and the Heritage Foundation, which have come out against Boehner’s counter-offer.

Norquist has stated that voting for the Democratic-led Senate bill that would renew all the Bush tax cuts except for the top 2% of income earners would be tantamount to voting for a tax increase. Even thinking about doing so was “impure.” But apparently voting for a Republican-led House bill that would renew all the Bush tax cuts except for the top .2% of income earners is not voting for a tax increase.  In the end, apparently, the line is simply where Norquist says it is.

An Americans For Tax Fairness poll showed last month that a majority of the country will blame Republicans if we go off the fiscal cliff and all the Bush tax cuts expire. As msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell recently pointed out on The Last Word, if the country goes over the curb on January 1 and all the tax rates revert to the Clinton-era tax rates, Grover Norquist and his anti-tax increase pledge will become irrelevant.

Rather than lose face, Norquist gives in on Boehner's Plan B