For all the talk of Grover Norquist’s ironclad grip on the GOP, a large and growing number of Republicans say they’ve renounced the anti-tax activist’s pledge against raising taxes.
The precise number is hard to game out in part because Norquist has been cagey about which votes might count as a violation. For example, he’s strongly suggested that a vote to keep in place only the Bush tax cuts for the middle class would be unacceptable, but he’s tolerated votes in the past to preserve expiring tax rates that would have gone up even more without a deal. Until a final deal emerges it’s tough to predict his response.
But regardless of what the fiscal cliff talks produce, dozens of House and Senate Republicans already say they’re open to tossing aside Americans for Tax Reform’s pledge in order to secure a grand bargain. TPM will be updating the list as necessary, so if you spot any new or missing names send an e-mail to email@example.com
Let’s start with the obvious two groups.
HOUSE GOP NON-SIGNERS
These 16 House members may not seem like a lot, but it’s actually a boost from the six non-signers in the previous Congress:
Chris Stewart (R-UT), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Scott Perry (R-PA), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Tom Rice (R-SC), Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Rob Woodall (R-GA), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Rodney Davis (R-IL), David Joyce (R-OH), Paul Cook (R-CA)
SENATE GOP NON-SIGNERS
Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Hoeven (R-ND)
There will be two fewer Senators on the list of signees in the 113th Congress, thanks to the departure of Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Ben Nelson (D-ND), the body’s sole Democratic signee.
The number of lawmakers who might be amenable to new taxes, either via increased rates or by lopping off deductions, is significantly higher based on recent statements. And many have singled out the pledge as an obstacle to reaching their preferred deal.
These lawmakers have openly criticized or minimized Norquist’s pledge:
Tom Coburn (R-OK): “I know we have to raise revenue,” Coburn told MSNBC on Wednesday. “I don’t really care which way we do it. I would rather see the rates go up than do it the other way because it gives us greater chance to reform the tax code and broaden the base in the future.”
Bob Corker (R-TN): “I’m not obligated on the pledge,” Corker said in November. He’s since suggested giving in to the White House’s demands on tax rates in order to shift the focus of negotiations to cutting entitlements.
Lindsey Graham (R-SC): Graham says he’s willing to break with the pledge to eliminate tax deductions. “We’re so far in debt, that if you don’t give up some ideological ground, the country sinks,” he said last month.
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA): Chambliss says he’s not factoring Norquist into his position, inviting a serious primary threat from the right. “When I said I care about my country more than I do about a 20-year-old pledge, that’s what I’m talking about,” Chambliss told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Kelly Ayotte (R-NH): “The only pledge that keeps me up at night is the pledge I owe to the people of New Hampshire and our country to work as hard as I can to make sure America doesn’t go bankrupt,” Ayotte said last month.
Mike Enzi (R-WY): “Grover Norquist doesn’t live in Wyoming and Sen. Enzi’s primary concern is what is best for his constituents,” spokesman Dan Head told the Associated Press. “He will not give away his vote to someone else’s stretched interpretation.”
Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “My only pledge is to the United States flag and to the United States Constitution, and I’ve forsworn all others,” Alexander said in 2011, a quote his staff passed on to the Tennessee press recently.
Mike Johanns (R-NE): Johanns said recently he’d consider new revenues. But his most notable quotes came in July, when he criticized Norquist’s pledge from the right for being applied inconsistently to votes.
Several other senators have said they’re open to new revenue, but have kept their statements vague as to whether they would buck Norquist’s requirements that any new revenues be used to lower tax rates.
John McCain (R-AZ): While McCain has not explicitly dropped his loyalty to the pledge, he’s said he’s open to raising revenue by cutting deductions. “I would be very much opposed to raising tax rates, but I do believe we can close a lot of loopholes,” McCain told Fox News last month.
David Vitter (R-LA): Vitter says he’s open to “new revenue from upper income folks through fundamental tax reform.”
Jeff Sessions (R-AL): “I signed it and I absolutely believe we don’t have to raise taxes now,” Sessions told Fox News. But he added that “we’ve got to deal with the political reality of the president’s victory” and hinted new revenue might be necessary to solve the current “crisis.”
Dear Grover, a site tracking pledge defectors, claims 44 members of the current House and 33 members of the incoming 113th Congress have renounced their earlier tax pledge based on their public statements. It’s a wide net, though. Some just say they aren’t beholden to pledges in general, some call directly for an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, others say they’ll support tax reform that raises revenue overall and lowers rates.
Here are a few notable examples:
Tom Cole (R-OK): The most significant Norquist foe in the House, Cole has flat out told Republicans they should send Obama a bill extending middle class tax cuts rather than tough it out on behalf of the top 2% rates.
Chris Gibson (R-NY): Gibson has said the pledge no longer applies to him, because he represents a new district now.
Chip Cravaack (R-MN): “I have learned, never sign a damn pledge,” Cravaack told his constituents.
Peter King (R-NY): “A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress,” King said on Meet The Press. “For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed a declaration of war against Japan. I’m not going to attack Japan today.”
Buck McKeon (R-CA): “If it came that I had only two choices, one was a tax increase and one was a cut in defense over and above where we already are, I would go to strengthen defense,” McKeon told the Daily Beast.
Its full list of House signers turned skeptics in the 112th and 113th Congress:
Rob Andrews (NJ-01)
Charlie Bass (NH-02)
Charles Boustany (LA-03)
Howard Coble (NC-06)
Tom Cole (OK-04)
John Campbell (CA-45)
Ben Chandler (KY-06)
Rick Crawford (AR-01)
Chip Cravaack (MN-08)
Charlie Dent (PA-15)
Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)
Robert Dold (IL-10)
Jo Ann Emerson (MO-08)
Jeff Flake (AZ-06)
Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Kay Granger (TX-12)
Nan Hayworth (NY-19)
Tim Johnson (IL-15)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Peter King (NY-02)
John Kline (MN-02)
Tom Latham (IA-03)
Steve LaTourette (OH-14)
Mary Bono Mack (CA-45)
Buck McKeon (CA-25)
Pat Meehan (PA-07)
Tom Marino (PA-10)
Rich Nugent (FL-11)
Erik Paulsen (MN-03)
Tom Reed (NY-23)
Reid Ribble (WI-08)
Scott Rigell (VA-02)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48)
Tom Rooney (FL-17)
Dennis Ross (FL-15)
Jon Runyan (NJ-03)
John Shimkus (IL-15)
Mike Simpson (ID-02)
Adrian Smith (NE-03)
Lee Terry (NE-02)
Bob Turner (NY-09)
Dan Webster (FL-10)
Allen West (FL-22)
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.