NPR logo Boehner Downplays Norquist's Sway On Congress' Republicans

Boehner Downplays Norquist's Sway On Congress' Republicans

Grover Norquist gets credit for having a lot of sway in Washington over congressional Republicans, virtually all of whom have signed his anti-tax organization's pledge to not raise taxes unless certain strict requirements are met.

In fact, even the occasional Republican has remarked on Norquist's seemingly outsized influence on the Capitol Hill dynamic. Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia recently warned during a speech on the House floor that it was unwise for his party to toe the line set by Norquist who heads Americans for Tax Reform:

WOLF: Have we really reached a point where one person's demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?

Given that, journalists couldn't help but notice how House Speaker John Boehner appeared Thursday, after a reporter asked him about Norquist's influence, to diminish the anti-tax activist's impact on congressional Republicans.

The speaker seemed to downright turn one of Washington's most influential issue advocates into some anonymous member of the 99 percent. Or, perhaps, the 53 percent.

Here's part of Boehner's exchange with a reporter:

BOEHNER: ... It's not often I'm asked about some random person in America and what I think. (Laughter.)

REPORTER: Is he a random person, though? To your conference, is Grover Norquist a random person?

BOEHNER: Listen, our focus is on creating jobs, not talking about somebody's personality.

REPORTER: But it — what he stands for, is that a positive influence in your conference?

SPEAKER BOEHNER: What he stands for?

REPORTER: Yes, his no — his no tax hikes under any circumstances (button ?), is that positive for your conference?

BOEHNER: Listen, our conference is opposed to tax hikes because we believe that tax hikes will hurt our economy and put Americans out of work.