Grover Norquist’s anti-tax advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform is giving House Republicans a pass on voting for House Speaker John Boehner’s so-called “Plan B,” which would lock in the Bush tax cuts for all incomes up to $1 million.
“The House this week will vote on a tax bill,” reads an ATR statement. “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.”
ATR becomes the first major anti-tax group to endorse Boehner’s plan, which has come under heavy fire by other influential groups, including Heritage Action, and Americans for Prosperity. But ATR’s so-called taxpayer protection pledge has been the lodestar for wayward anti-tax Republicans for years. A strict reading of the pledge holds that Republicans will not vote for any legislation that results in an effective tax increase on anybody.
By providing its blessing, ATR reveals that it construes the pledge arbitrarily, and bends its meaning when prevailing political circumstances requires as much. It also follows that if Plan B is consistent with the pledge, so is similar legislation, which passed the Senate earlier this year, to set the threshold for extending the Bush tax cuts at $250,000 in income.
But to pass, Boehner’s plan will need support from the vast majority of his conference. That proposition is in doubt. And it would almost certainly be dead on arrival without Norquist’s blessing.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.