Much was made over the weekend about cracks in Grover Norquist's "No Tax Pledge" dam by Rep. Peter King and Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).
Before we go on, we all know there IS such a thing as the "No Tax Pledge," but until last night as I was writing this, I had never actually read it.
Here is the operational section of the pledge as signed by hundreds of candidates for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate: I pledge that I will …
"ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and
"TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."
Grover, whom I've known for maybe 30 years, has been the bulwark against income tax increases to pay for higher spending by the Federal government. He has been steadfast and unwavering in his belief that The Pledge will prevent Congress (or state legislatures) from increasing income taxes on working Americans to pay for campaign promises made by legislators at all levels.
According to the Washington Post, Sen. Graham came out in favor of Section I of The Pledge, but was backing off Section II. Graham said, "I agree with Grover - we shouldn't raise rates - but I think Grover is wrong when it comes to we can't cap deductions and buy down debt."
In an interview on Face the Nation in August, Bob Schieffer asked Norquist whether getting rid of tax preferences, exemptions, deductions and the like was allowed under The Pledge.
Grover responded that he was for that sort of cleansing of the tax code "as long as you decrease marginal tax rates at the same time … so it is revenue neutral."
It's that "revenue neutral" language which may be heading over the Fiscal Cliff.
On Thursday of last week, Sen. Chambliss said in an interview with a Georgia TV station that he didn't feel bound by a pledge he signed 20 years ago. "Times have changed significantly, and I care more about this country than I do a 20-year-old pledge."
New York Congressman Peter King said on Meet the Press yesterday that he agreed with Sen. Chambliss: "A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress. … The world has changed, and the economic situation is different."
According to Fox News, King "said he was opposed to tax increases but that 'everything should be on the table' when President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid try to broker a deal."
King said he wouldn't prejudge such a deal and "we should not be taking ironclad positions."
Also in that Fox News account, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IN) "acknowledged that his party needs to 'bring entitlement reform into the conversation.'"
Durbin talked specifically about doing something about Medicare which has, he said, "only 12 years of solvency lie ahead if we do nothing."
That is significant because Durbin is the number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate behind Harry Reid.
On a midday appearance on MSNBC with former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell yesterday, anchor Alex Witt asked me if I thought the GOP was changing its position on taxes (and immigration) for political reasons.
I said if they were doing it for political reasons it might have been more useful to change their position three weeks ago when it might have done some political good.
Prior to our segment, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) complained about the "mindless cuts" that would affect the Department of Defense if the automatic spending cuts go into effect.
We didn't get to that but you know my position: The Congress voted for the "sequester" if the Super Committee couldn't come up with a package of spending reductions and revenue enhancements last year.
It failed to so exactly one year ago and so now the cuts are looming.
Smith was making it sound like this was someone else's fault. It is not. The Congress did this to itself -- and to the rest of us -- because they refused to agree to anything that might have become a 30 second attack ad against them in their re-election campaigns.
"The fault," as Cassius said to Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar "lies not in our stars, but in ourselves."
Good for Rep. Smith and his pals to remember that as we slide closer and closer to the Fiscal Cliff.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the statements by all Republicans on The Pledge, and a pretty amusing Mullfoto from my trip to Western Massachusetts for Thanksgiving.