Grover’s Lock on Congress Slipping?

An article by The Hill‘s Russell Berman suggests that the control over the Republican Members of the U.S. House and Senate by Americans for Tax Reform chieftain Grover Norquist via his infamous “pledge” against votes for any new taxes could be slipping a bit, as some new Members are refusing to sign it and a few old Members are reneging.

With Democrats picking up seven or eight seats, that means the pledge guides fewer than the 218 [House] 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.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m not ready to break into song and dance about Grover’s diminished clout.

If we were talking about, well, anybody else, a discussion of whether or not a private citizen running an advocacy group was or was not in the position to dictate the policies of one of the two major policies on the central issues facing the Congress and the country in the next hundred days–well, we’d probably be a bit alarmed.

We’ll soon know how much residual power Norquist has–and whether he feels the need to cut Republicans some slack–since John Boehner has already crossed an important line by suggesting House Republicans might support devoting revenues derived from “loophole closing” to deficit reduction rather than lower rates (in the context, of course, of a highly hypothetical deal with Democrats that includes some yet-to-be-defined version of “entitlement reform”).

But Grover Norquist really ought to be quoted at the end, not the beginning, of stories about taxes and spending and the direction of the country. He’s had an amazing if implausible run of political power for a guy who once drove Ralph Reed around Washington teaching him anarchist songs and hatred of the nation’s great memorials as “nauseating” displays of fascistic collectivism. It’s really time for him to go, but I doubt he’ll leave gracefully.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.