Stepping away from The Pledge

Back in July, Tom Coburn raised some eyebrows when he suggested on C-Span that tax increases couldn’t be avoided forever in solving the debt problem. Coburn said:

“I would rather fix the country and lose a battle with Grover Norquist than send our country down the tubes and pay attention to a point of view that is just suicide,” Coburn said. “And the fact is that there’s a lot of ways to enhance the revenue to the federal government. Reforming the tax code is a way to do it but we have to get $4 trillion.”

Not unexpectedly, Grover was less than pleased with Coburn’s stance, and replied:

“The Republican leadership in the House have made it very clear that if Coburn continues to be for tax increases, he’s by his lonesome on that and nobody else has joined him.”

Over the summer recess, a few GOP congressmen were confronted at town hall meetings with constituents about signing Grover Norquist’s tax pledge. Freshman Chris Gibson from NY, Lee Terry from Nebraska, Rick Berg of North Dakota, and Dan Lundgren-CA, all faced constituents questioning their signing The Pledge.

Looks now like Grover is losing a little more support.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota suggested that antitax pledges ought to be revisited, because they can be interpreted too broadly in closing loopholes or eliminating tax deductions. “We shouldn’t be bound by something that could be interpreted different ways if what we’re trying to accomplish is broad-based tax reform,” he said.

“There is pledge fatigue,” said Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, who signed the Norquist pledge when he first ran for office in 2004 but has since jettisoned his support. “Many Americans are very cynical about the motives of politicians, so they want something harder to be able to believe in a person. But the pledge turns the power over to someone else to interpret whether what you did was right or wrong and limits your creativity.”

Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who also signed it, said in an interview: “I’ve signed more pledges than I should have over the years. All of us ought to be somewhat reluctant to make these pledges. I think people who have been here longer do fewer.”

All the GOP POTUS candidates have signed Grover’s tax pledge with one exception: Jon Huntsman. From where I sit, he’s the only one who got it right when he said: I’d love to get everybody to take a pledge to take no more pledges.”

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