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Top Republican rebels against Norquist tax pledge

Grover Norquist's stranglehold on Republican lawmakers appears to be loosening with Sen.
Grover Norquist (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist's stranglehold on Republican lawmakers appears to be loosening with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., openly disavowing Norquist's tax pledge Thursday.

Chambliss, a member of the Senate's "Gang of Eight"—a bipartisan group of lawmakers focused on reducing the deficit— cited the urgency of avoiding the fiscal cliff as his reason for ignoring the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which committed him to vote against any tax hikes, Reuters reported.

"Grover Norquist has no plan to pay this debt down," Chambliss said to a local news station in his home state. "His plan says you continue to add to the debt. I just have a fundamental disagreement with him about that."

President Obama campaigned—and won— on a pledge to raise taxes on people earning more than $250,000 as a way to raise revenue and bring down the deficit, exit polls showed that voters largely supported the measure.

"I care more about this country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," Chambliss said.

Given public sentiment about raising taxes and the ongoing fiscal crisis, Republicans have begun to think twice about Norquist's pledge, which prevents any tax increases and favors revenue through economic growth.

None of the incoming class of 16 Republican House members has yet to sign the pledge and old Norquist allies, including House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz., have indicated they're willing to negotiate on raising taxes.

Chambliss' remarks against Norquist's pledge are the strongest rejection yet of his tax pledge. Despite the open criticism of the pledge, Norquist remained nonplussed about the decrease in influence of his Americans for Tax Reform, telling Reuters that, "Sen. Chambliss promised the people of Georgia he would go to Washington and reform government rather than raise taxes to pay for bigger government."

Congress reconvenes to address the fiscal cliff next week.