Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia is making headlines today, for his recent comments about the no-tax-increase pledge he once made to powerful wingnut activist Grover Norquist. Chambliss said he’s not worried that Norquist will sic a primary challenger on him if he votes to raise taxes:

“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” said Chambliss, who signed Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” when he first ran for Senate. “If we do it his way, then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”

Chambliss isn’t the only Republican openly defying Norquist. As The Hill recently reported, the number of supporters of Norquist’s pledge is down in both the House and Senate, with a dozen incoming freshman Republicans in the House having refused to sign on. It’s hard to say whether this represents a growing trend, or merely a change in tactics. The end-game for Grover, as always, in his infamous words, to shrink the government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” If he now thinks the best way get there would be to trade a small increase in taxes in exchange for steep, debilitating cuts in social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare, then maybe the apparent split between Norquist and Republicans like Chambliss is all kabuki.

Certainly, of all the changes the G.O.P. might make to broaden its base, it seems to me that any changes in its basic economic orientation are most unlikely. The alliances between the Republican Party and wealthy corporations and individuals are the strongest, deepest, and most powerful ties that party has, so I doubt anything very fundamental will change there. But the fate of Grover Norquist specifically and his no-tax-increases-at-any-cost ideology in general certainly bears continuing scrutiny.

UPDATE: Yup, it does seem like La Chambliss’ dance of the seven veils is all about gutting Social Security and Medicare (H/T: Digby).

Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee