Friday, November 16, 2012

Saying No To Grover Norquist's No Tax Pledge

While poking around for information on "Tim Johnson" for  another post  I came across this puzzling story about  Republican US Representative Tim Johnson from Illinois who resigned shortly after winning the primary election.

The Huffington Post reported in April:
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Veteran Illinois U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson intends to drop his bid for a seventh term and retire, a Republican official said Wednesday.
Johnson was expected to make a public announcement of his decision Thursday, said the official, who spoke directly with Johnson but would confirm the decision only on condition of anonymity in order not to pre-empt the congressman's formal announcement.
The reason for the 65-year-old Johnson's decision was not clear, but the official said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Johnson, known for taking positions at odds with his party colleagues and his attempts to call every resident of his district, was considered a strong candidate for re-election in November to his seat in eastern Illinois' 13th Congressional District. He is just two weeks removed from a primary victory over two candidates.

Then I came across this post from Freakout Nation, quoting Think Progress saying that Rep. Tim Johnson had repudiated the no tax pledge

Today [March 9, 2012], Norquist lost another devotee, with Rep. Timothy Johnson (R-IL) saying that while he signed the pledge for his first election, he now considers Norquist’s stance “disingenuous and irresponsible“:
I would never in a million years have considered this as some kind of a locked-in-granite pledge. Frankly, I didn’t even remember it. That shows you how obscure it was to me,” Johnson said.
“My understanding was then, as I remember it, and certainly now, is that nobody could possibly ever in a million years, in their wildest imagination, expect you to sign something that was right before a primary election and then you’d be locked in on that position the whole rest of your career. Particularly something like taxes and particularly when the national debt 10 and a half years ago was $6 trillion and now it’s going to be $17 trillion.”[...]
“Nobody could lock themselves in perpetuity into a position like that. That’s like saying you’d never vote for armed intervention in a foreign country, until we get attacked”…“I’m not saying I’m even committed now to a tax increase, but I think anybody who doesn’t indicate their willingness to look at revenues — expiration of tax loopholes, tax credits, increase in contribution to Social Security, which is a tax, and otherwise — would be disingenuous and irresponsible.

It may be tempting to think that this bucking of the pledge led to pressure to drop out.  I have no proof that is the case.  A New York Times article cites family and redistricting and shows him to have already been a very independent Republican.  There's no mention of the no tax pledge.  Another Republican, Rodney Davis, replaced Johnson and beat Democrat Bill Gill by 1,287 votes. (An Independent candidate took another 21,000 votes.  Looking at his positions, I would guess the Independent drew more votes from the Democrat than the Republican.)

The Think Progress post mentions several other Republicans who are not pledged to the tax cut.
"The pledge “restrains your ability to think creatively,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). “I don’t care to be associated with it.” “I will not sign another pledge,” said Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA). “We have to have the flexibility to do the right thing for American people.” “Have we really reached the 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?” asked Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA)."

The Hill reports other defections:
"Fewer incoming members of the House and Senate have signed the pledge against tax increases run by Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, in a reflection not only of the seats that Democrats gained but of the success they’ve enjoyed in vilifying Norquist.
About a dozen newly elected House Republicans refused to sign the anti-tax pledge during their campaigns, and another handful of returning Republicans have disavowed their allegiance to the written commitment.

With Democrats picking up seven or eight seats, that means the pledge guides fewer than the 218 members needed for a majority. In the Senate, where Republicans lost two seats, just 39 members of the chamber are pledge-signers, according to the group’s records. That is a drop from 238 members of the House and 41 senators  who committed to the pledge at the start of the 112th Congress. . ."

“'I don’t want to sign a pledge that’s going to tie my hands,' Ted Yoho, a GOP congressman-elect from Florida, told The Hill. “I need free rein to do what I think is right for the people in my district and the country.”
Yoho is no fan of taxes, calling them “a necessary evil, it appears.” He said one reason he did not sign the pledge was that he had never met Norquist. “To sign a pledge to somebody that’s not a member of Congress or part of my constituency, I don’t think would be very prudent,” Yoho said.
Susan Brooks, a newly elected Republican from Indiana, offered a similar explanation on the campaign trail, spokeswoman Dollyne Pettingill Sherman said. 'She just took the position that she was not going to sign pledges,” she said. “That doesn’t mean she’s for tax increases. She’s not. She was very clear about it.'"

Like the Wizard of Oz, the Grover of (n)0's, has power only as long as people believe in him.  And when they pull the curtain back and find out he's just a crotchety old man, his spell over the Republican politicians will be over.   


  1. I emailed Dave Camp to ask him to disavow the pledge. When I sent an email about his connections to ALEC, he played dumb and said 'they are concerned with state legislation and I am a US Congressman" even though he has spoken to their conventions more than once. It will be interesting to read his excuses this time.

  2. If he's playing with ALEC I doubt there's much hope except beating him in the election. But since he won with 63% of the vote, it doesn't look good.


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