TIMOTHY NOAH DECEMBER 22, 2011
Listening to the ordinarily silver-tongued Grover Norquist, president of Americans For Tax Reform and high priest of the anti-tax movement, try to spit out some justification for the House GOP's Masada-like stance against extending the payroll tax cut is like listening to Porky Pig sing "Blue Christmas." He'll gloat that the Democrats had to back off their millionaire surtax to pay for the payroll tax cut extension. He'll chide Obama for trying to postpone a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. But he won't say that the House Republicans, in rejecting the Senate compromise, have voted to raise payroll taxes. "It would be a higher tax than it was last year for one year," he allowed in a Dec. 20 radio interview, sounding remarkably like Bill Clinton quibbling about the definition of "is." But "it's not a violation of The Pledge not to extend a one-year tax holiday."
Grudgingly, Norquist opined, "I think it's a good idea to extend it largely because the Democrats will demagogue it if one doesn't, so let's do it and let's move on." Remind me again what this guy does for a living? It's often said that the GOP toadies to Norquist, but this is a clear instance in which Norquist (who supported Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's resolution of the payroll-tax fight before it twice failed to win votes from a majority of Senate Republicans or even most in the Senate Republican leadership) is toadying to the GOP. The House GOP, anyway. The Senate GOP just wants the House to shut up already and ratify its compromise. After a halfhearted show of solidarity with House Speaker John Boehner McConnell today lost his patience and, in a press release, told the House to pass the goddamned thing.
This puts Norquist in the awkward position of having to dodge crossfire between Boehner and McConnell. After staying silent on the issue for days and days, Americans For Tax Reform finally posted some agitprop blaming the whole thing on Senate Democrats. But that was before McConnell made his move. It's harder to blame this on Senate Democrats when the top Senate Republican very publicly sides with them.