WASHINGTON -- Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist said Wednesday that Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) "obviously" didn't expect his comments in support of President Barack Obama's tax proposal to go public.
Except that Cole made his comments in a Tuesday interview with Politico.
During a Wednesday morning interview with Politico's Mike Allen, Norquist said he suspected that Cole's suggestion -- that Republicans agree to Obama's request to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class while letting cuts for the wealthy expire, and therefore give themselves a stronger bargaining position on a broader debt deal later -- was never meant to be publicly aired.
"Obviously this was leaked," Norquist said of Cole's proposal. "I don't think he intended to have a public conversation."
Allen then interrupted to point out that Cole made his comments, quite openly, to a Politico reporter a day earlier.
"Oh ok, then he meant to, then he meant to get it out," Norquist stumbled. "But by doing that then, um, all he did is have a conversation about other ways to raise taxes. We're trying to figure out how to rein in spending."
Norquist never said what he thought about the substance of Cole's proposal. He also didn't answer questions about what he thinks House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) should do to get a deal on a fiscal plan. He did say that Republicans shouldn't forget they have leverage in their negotiations with Obama: they can threaten not to raise the debt limit.
"They can give him debt ceiling increases once a month," Norquist said.
Of course, when Republicans refused to increase the debt ceiling in 2011 without tying it to spending cuts, congressional fighting on the matter cost the U.S. economy $1.3 billion.