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Senator breaks with tax lobbyist

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, at left, discusses the ramifications of federal budget cuts set to start Jan. 2, 2013, with Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard, center, and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Atlanta. The senators and U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, met with local officials on Aug. 6, 2012, to explain how the cuts would adversely impact programs, including the military.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, at left, discusses the ramifications of federal budget cuts set to start Jan. 2, 2013, with Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard, center, and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Atlanta. The senators and U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, met with local officials on Aug. 6, 2012, to explain how the cuts would adversely impact programs, including the military.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, has become the latest Republican lawmaker to loosen his ties to Grover Norquist, the anti-tax lobbyist famous for getting elected officials to sign a "taxpayer protection pledge."

The rebellion, albeit a modest one, comes as Republicans prepare to negotiate with Democrats and President Barack Obama on a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff -- some $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to start jolting the economy at the beginning of 2013.

"I care more about this country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," Chambliss told Georgia television station WMAZ on Thursday. "If we do it his way, then we'll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that."

Chambliss, who represents Georgia, is a member of the so-called Gang of Eight group of senators, a bipartisan alliance working for deficit reduction, formed last year when the country was on the verge of default thanks to a partisan battle over raising the country's borrowing limit.

A vast majority of elected Republicans have signed the pledge Norquist created in 1986, which commits them to voting against tax increases, and it became a type of litmus test among U.S. conservatives.

But its influence, and that of Norquist's organization, Americans for Tax Reform, may be waning following Republican losses in this month's elections and acknowledgments from Republican leaders that revenue must be raised to pare deficits topping $1 trillion.

"Grover Norquist has no plan to pay this debt down. His plan says you continue to add to the debt. I just have a fundamental disagreement with him about that," Chambliss said.

Norquist, in response, noted that Chambliss was an author of an open letter to him last year from three Republicans promising support for revenue generation from the "pro-growth effects" of lower tax rates.

"Senator Chambliss promised the people of Georgia he would go to Washington and reform government rather than raise taxes to pay for bigger government," Norquist said.

Some Republicans contend they are only open to raising revenue through economic growth, an impact hard to quantify and which Democrats and many economists say is not nearly enough.

Republican aides on Capitol Hill have been grumbling privately about the attention Norquist gets, worrying that it weakens their ability to negotiate across the aisle.

Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., who won re-election despite disavowing the pledge, expressed similar sentiments publicly in a Nov. 17 interview on CNN.

Rigell said he was a businessman and would "go where the numbers lead me. And a careful analysis of our budget and trying to reconcile that with the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge led me to the clear decision that the pledge itself is an impediment to meaningful tax reform."

Norm Ornstein, a political scientist at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said such comments showed taking on Norquist was not as risky as it used to be.

"Taking on Grover Norquist at this point is not the kiss of death it was a year or five years ago," Ornstein said. "Especially when you have a president winning re-election after making raising taxes on the rich a centerpiece of his campaign."

DEBT, POLARIZATION

By signing the pledge, lawmakers agree to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business," and "oppose any net reduction" or elimination of deductions and credits, unless it is matched dollar for dollar with further tax rate cuts.

Among the other Republicans who have expressed misgivings about the pledge in recent months are Sen.Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio, who is leaving the House, citing the polarized climate in Washington.

The new House of Representatives, which starts work in January, has 16 Republicans who have not signed the pledge, up from six in the outgoing Congress. One new Republican senator, Jeff Flake, also has not signed.

Democrats believe they have the upper hand in talks, after Obama's win over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a campaign in which Obama stressed the need for the wealthy to pay more in taxes.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Washington event last week, Norquist told Reuters: "People don't always take the pledge first when they run. A lot take it after they have been there for a while. The pledge isn't the only vehicle for stopping tax increases."

Chambliss, who is up for re-election in 2014, was asked in the interview whether Norquist would retaliate against him.

"In all likelihood, yes," Chambliss said.

Comments

Trustbuster 1 year, 4 months ago

While Grover is certainly not on my love list I believe tax increases without significant spending reductions or entitlement reform is a big mistake. Chambliss' position may sound courageous but our govt. doesn't have a revenue problem but a spending problem. If the senator votes for major tax increases then he should retire in 2014. This is a prime example why term limits are necessary.

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ustaknow 1 year, 4 months ago

To pay higher taxes without a budget in place is wrong. Shame on any incumbent that would ask for higher taxes without a budget in place. maybe Saxby should change parties all together. Vote any incumbent out who refuses to cut cost and waste

Very few would mind higher taxes if Washington had a budget and there was no waste but when these are ignored - shame on them all

Politicians make about 84 dollars an hour and the president makes more than 193 dollars an hour- so of course they want higher taxes.

We need to hold them accountable.

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DoctorDorite 1 year, 4 months ago

Did you know that a Senator or Congressman and their families can go to ANY hospital, civilian or military base in the World at anytime and get treated at NO cost to them ? Now thats real Health Care, how about some like it for the average insurance premium paying public. That would be real Health Care reform !

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DoctorDorite 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm a conservative Republican and have over the years have lost my feelings of Chambliss due to his voting and secret agenda, the truth will shine on him one day. He is'nt for Georgians thats for sure, just check his past records and you'll discover he talks the talk but doe'nt walk the walk.

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whattheheck 1 year, 4 months ago

The Doctor ordered correctly on this one. Saxby is not a "real" conservative and will now be less of one. Not signing a tax pledge means nothing to him and this article merely serves as written warning that he will vote for an increase in his attempts to "get along" and perhaps foster liberal votes for reelection. I am tired of him and he can go into his well paid retirement sooner rather than later--he hasn't earned his keep.

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Trustbuster 1 year, 4 months ago

Keep in mind that the Social Security payroll tax automatically increases in January.

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iko 1 year, 4 months ago

If you want to get rid of a politician, start with the filthy, greasy-looking Sinyard swine. He's never seen a tax he didn't like and is also a supporter of the disgusting and vile Ken Hodges filth.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 4 months ago

If we bring our troops home, force Obama to use only US energy, reduce foreign aid sugstantially, eliminate the UN, really apply the law on medicaid and medicare fraud, end the god forsaken and useless drug war and add term limits with a law that former congressmen and senators cannot earn money for lobbying we will have ample money to pay for social security, medicare, defense, and infrastructure enhancement. Ex congressmen are the bane of American democracy.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 4 months ago

Social Security only goes up for the employer. They should have already been paying this. Obama played on the ignorance of his supporters. His supporters think that corporate profits should stop too. I never knew that there was such ignorance in America. In order to vote, one should have to pass a political science test.

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DoctorDorite 1 year, 4 months ago

But China look at it like this, the employer will lay off as many needed to make up the extra cost he has pay as he fowards the money to Uncle Sam so in reality the unempolyed is the victim of increases not the employer, Business 101.

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