WASHINGTON -- Voting to end the Bush tax cuts would be considered a tax hike and a violation of a pledge to Americans for Tax Reform, organization president and Republican Party-influencer Grover Norquist wrote in a Friday New York Times op-ed.
Norquist caused a stir on Thursday with his statements to the Washington Post editorial board, whom he told that letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire -- as they are set to do in December 2012 -- would not be seen as a violation of Americans for Tax Reform's anti-tax pledge.
But Norquist flatly rejected the idea that his statement would give Republicans, nearly all of whom have signed the pledge, breathing room to end the tax cuts as part of a deficit-reduction deal for increasing the debt limit. Democrats are pushing for a deal to raise the debt ceiling to include an end to some of the Bush tax cuts, which have temporarily reduced the tax rate for most income levels, or other revenue-raisers to mitigate heavy spending cuts.
Voting to raise taxes in any way -- including by ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy instead of letting them expire on their own -- is a violation of the pledge, he wrote in The New York Times, comparing paying taxes to being mugged.
"The theory is that any dollar the government failed to take from you in taxes had in fact been given to you in a spending program," he wrote in the op-ed. "By this reasoning, the deduction-killing Alternative Minimum Tax is not a tax hike — a cruel joke on the millions of Americans who get hit by it every year."
"When a mugger passes you on the street leaving you unmolested, he did not in fact give you your wallet," Norquist wrote.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) seems to agree; He said on Thursday that he believes voting to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would be a tax hike and something he could not support. House GOP leaders have repeatedly said there is no appetite in their conference for a debt ceiling deal that includes tax increases.
Still, Norquist, like Boehner, also insists that to not raise the debt ceiling could be disastrous for the economy. The Treasury Department estimates the debt limit must be increased by Aug. 2 to prevent the government from beginning to default on its loans.
"A 'shutdown' or 'default' or 'wobbly walk around the rim of default' would be, as my mother would say, 'unhelpful,' " he told National Memo in an interview published on Thursday evening. "How unhelpful? I don’t know, [and I’m] not real interested in finding out. Let’s experiment on a smaller country."