Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist provided a fresh rebuttal to an old critic Monday, accusing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) of standing "alone" in his claim that solving the fiscal crisis will require more open-mindedness when it comes to a balanced approach.
In a New York Times op-ed published Sunday, Coburn accused Norquist of becoming "increasingly isolated politically" by pushing a no-new-taxes pledge on Congressional Republicans that forbids tax hikes unless accompanied by dollar-for-dollar deductions.
Coburn also wrote that Norquist only gives Democratic legislators the political fodder they need to paint the GOP as receiving its "marching orders" from a stubborn ideologue.
"The majority of Democrats and Republicans understand the severity of our economic challenges," Coburn concluded. "They know they have to put everything on the table and make hard choices. Legislators who would rather foster political boogeyman only delay those critical reforms."
In an interview with The Hill on Monday, Norquist dismissed Coburn's argument, saying the pledge is not open to "interpretation." Norquist suggested that Corburn has "gone native or developed Stockholm Syndrome" from sitting alongside Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) during Gang of Six meetings, referring to the bipartisan discussions surrounding the debt ceiling crisis last summer.
"When Coburn stands up and says, 'I want to raise taxes,' he stands alone," Norquist said.
Sunday's op-ed marks the latest in a series of Coburn-backed challenges to the ubiquitous pledge, which has been signed by 238 representatives and 41 senators -- all but three of them Republicans -- in the 112th Congress.
Earlier this year, Coburn took on Norquist's vague definition of a tax by supporting the elimination of a multi-billion-dollar ethanol subsidy, which Norquist deemed a tax increase.
"Grover's old news. It doesn't matter what he says," Coburn told MSNBC the same day he cast the procedural vote, which Norquist warned would be a pledge violation.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized the Taxpayer Protection Pledge for restricting them from closing loopholes.
In one of the pledge's more high-profile defections, Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) yanked his signature and released a two-page letter to constituents explaining why he could not support the anti-tax oath. He wrote that he objects to the pledge's prohibition against getting rid of corporate loopholes or government subsidies unless the change in the tax code is revenue neutral.
"Though I suppose well intended, it directly inhibited the very goal we seek to advance, which is tax reform," Rigell told The Huffington Post earlier this month.