Conservative Heavyweights Trade Jabs Over Taxes On one side is Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who's looking for a grand compromise to bring down annual deficits — and says the solution may involve an increase in tax revenues. On the other side is anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who says Coburn is breaking a long-standing pledge not to raise taxes.
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Conservative Heavyweights Trade Jabs Over Taxes

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Conservative Heavyweights Trade Jabs Over Taxes

Conservative Heavyweights Trade Jabs Over Taxes

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's David Welna has their story.

DAVID WELNA: Coburn has signed a pledge sponsored by Norquist's anti-tax lobbying group, Americans for Tax Reform, not to raise taxes. When NBC's David Gregory pointed that out to Coburn on Sunday, this was his reply.

BLOCK: Which pledge is most important, David? Is it the pledge to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group who claims to speak for all of American conservatives, when in fact they really don't?

BLOCK: Open it up and read it.

WELNA: That's Grover Norquist urging me to look at the so-called Taxpayer Protection Pledge that Coburn signed seven years ago.

BLOCK: His commitment in writing is to the people of Oklahoma and the American people. So, nice try to argue that he's not made a commitment to the people of Oklahoma, but it's just not true.

WELNA: Forty-one senators - all but one of them Republicans - and 236 representatives - all but two of them Republicans - have signed Norquist's no tax hikes pledge. He says he's not worried about Senator Coburn changing their minds.

BLOCK: Mr. Coburn, if he thinks people are going to support a massive tax increase, I think if you would write down the size of that tax increase, the number of Republican supporters from that would be numbered on part of one hand.

WELNA: One of those Republicans might be Georgia's Senator Saxby Chambliss. Like Coburn, he sat on President Obama's bipartisan deficit commission and approved its final report, which called for increased revenues as well as spending cuts. Here's Chambliss on CNN earlier this month. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Chambliss was not a member of President Obama's bipartisan deficit commission.]

BLOCK: We've got to have an increase in revenues to be able to retire this debt. Now, if we don't want to pay the debt back, then we could just not worry about the revenues. But the fact is we've got a $14 trillion debt staring us in the face, and revenues has to be on the table if we're serious about attacking that debt.

WELNA: American University congressional expert James Thurber says it's significant that both Chambliss and Coburn see increased revenues as part of the solution to chronic deficits.

P: This is the beginning of a crack, which may allow for a deal. Norquist will try to stop it, and it will be a major confrontation between the Republican senators and Norquist.

WELNA: Coburn declined a request to comment for this report. But he did say on NBC that he and his colleagues were trying to find a compromise to save the country. Norquist, for his part, says there's already been plenty of compromise.

BLOCK: We've just had several months of compromise where the Democrats cut spending less than the Republicans wanted them to.

WELNA: You're saying it's OK to cut spending as a compromise, but you're saying that it is not OK to raise taxes at all as part of a compromise?

BLOCK: Compromising is moving in the right direction slowly. Raising taxes is moving in the wrong direction.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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