GOP Congress Members Have Private Audience With Pope Grover, Seek His Blessing

Isn't that nice. The single most influential man in Republican politics sits down with his minions, gives them their marching orders (which of course supersede their oath of office) and then says, "Gridlock? Who, me?" No, threatening anyone who

Isn't that nice. The single most influential man in Republican politics sits down with his minions, gives them their marching orders (which of course supersede their oath of office) and then says, "Gridlock? Who, me?" No, threatening anyone who deviates from your orders with a million-dollar primary challenge is just good government!

WASHINGTON — All but 13 of the 289 Republicans in the House and Senate have signed a pledge vowing to oppose tax increases. On Thursday, the author of that pledge met with some of them to help them understand exactly what it is they signed.

In the process, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist sparked a fresh barrage of criticism from Democrats who accuse him and his pledge of being one of the major impediments to a bipartisan debt-cutting deal. Norquist and Republicans defended the pledge, denied that he is hurting his party because he has become a political target, and said that Washington's gridlock on the issue is not his fault. ...

Thursday's session came at a time when some Republicans in Congress and elsewhere have been distancing themselves from Norquist's pledge, saying all options need to be available if the two parties are to concoct a debt-reduction agreement. It also comes during an election-year fight over whether to extend expiring tax cuts for the rich at the end of this year, as Republicans want and President Barack Obama and Democrats oppose, and whether to overhaul the entire tax code. ...

With some in Congress beginning to concentrate on how the two parties might reach a budget agreement later this year, some Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have expressed a willingness to eliminate tax breaks and use some of the money that would produce to reduce deficits. That would violate a tenet of Norquist's pledge, which says any money raised that way must be used to lower tax rates. ...

"They ought to be sitting down and working things out instead of holding court for him," said Rep. Sander Levin, top Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, as he wandered past the committee hearing room where the meeting was being held. "Norquist is here to hold feet to the fire when what we need are open minds."

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