WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner has sidestepped a question about whether anti-tax activist Grover Norquist is a positive influence on Republican lawmakers.
The Ohio Republican responded, "Our focus here is on jobs. We're doing everything I can to get our economy going, to get people back to work. It's not often I'm asked about some random person."
When pressed by MSNBC's Luke Russert whether Norquist was a "random person to your conference," he responded, "Listen, our focus is on creating jobs, not talking about somebody's personality."
The conservative Norquist has become a major factor in Washington by getting many members of Congress -- including nearly all Republicans -- to sign a pledge promising to oppose and vote against tax increases.
The adamant opposition to higher taxes among many Republicans is one reason why Congress' special debt-cutting super committee has been unable so far to reach a compromise on mopping up red ink.
Boehner said that Republicans oppose tax increases because they weaken the economy and throw Americans out of work.
Before the exchange with Boehner, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) claimed Republicans were afraid of Norquist. "A bunch of them signed this thing by the guy that I've never met that they're all afraid of," she said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Thursday. "The man who shall not be named -- Grover Norquist."