NPR logo Democrats Quoting Grover Norquist (For Now)

Democrats Quoting Grover Norquist (For Now)

Democrats don't usually go around citing Grover Norquist but these aren't normal times.

It's all because Norquist, the conservative activist who has essentially maintained anti-tax discipline among elected Republicans by having them sign a pledge, told Washington Post journalists that allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to lapse wouldn't be viewed by him as breaking their vow.

An excerpt from a WaPo editorial:

"Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase," Mr. Norquist told us. So it doesn't violate the pledge? "We wouldn't hold it that way," he said.

This struck many as major.

In the past Norquist has indicated that he would consider even closing tax loopholes a tax increase unless lower tax rates or some other method were employed to prevent a net rise in tax revenues from flowing to the U.S. Treasury.

Norquist's message made Democratic eyes widen and ears perk up. The conservative icon had handed them a new lever to use against congressional Republicans and they wasted little time in doing so.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, weaved Norquist into his floor speech during the Senate debate on the House's "Cut, Cap and Balance" spending cuts legislation. The bill is expected to die in the Senate.

Schumer, clearly relishing the moment, characterized Norquist's comments to the Post as a "coded message" to House conservatives that it is time to "step back from the brink."

"The House GOP is on an iceberg that is melting into the ocean, and even Grover Norquist is offering them a lifeboat," Schumer said. "Will they take it?"

"It's time to leave the default denier island," he added.

Norquist's comments to the Post, Schumer said, appear to give permission to House Republicans to "decouple" the Bush tax cuts from the debt-ceiling debate over spending and revenue.