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One of the big events yesterday in the Fiscal Cliff debate was Grover Norquist’s announcement that he would not consider it a violation of the Americans for Tax Reform pledge his politicians supported Boehner’s Plan B, which would make permanent almost all of the Bush tax cuts, with the exception of those falling on earnings of $1 million or more.In a statement, his group specifically said:
ATR has consistently maintained that individual Members of Congress make a pledge to their constituents to oppose and vote against tax increases. The House this week will vote on a tax bill. This legislation—popularly known as “Plan B”–permanently prevents a tax increase on families making less than $1 million per year. Republicans supporting this bill are this week affirming to their constituents in writing that this bill—the sole purpose of which is to prevent tax increases—is consistent with the pledge they made to them. In ATR’s analysis, it is extremely difficult—if not impossible—to fault these Republicans’ assertion.
The line of reasoning is basically: The vast majority of people are getting a permanently lower tax bill, and taxes only rise on those making $1 million for passive reasons. Nobody is voting for a tax hike. It’s just what happens under current law.
The problem is: There is literally no logical reason why this would not apply to those making $250K or more, which is where Democrats would like to draw the line. Voting to extend the Bush tax cuts on everyone below $250K, and then letting the other taxes rise passively is by the same logic not voting for a tax cut.
The secret is that the pledge really has no bearing in this debate. There never has to be a vote to raise taxes. There are only votes that extend some tax cuts, while leaving others untouched.
With this, Norquist is exposing the fact that the pledge’s relevance here was dicey to begin with.