By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
Why don’t we just call the bipartisan Super Committee, the congressional committee charged with coming up with $1.5 trillion in additional savings by Nov. 23, the “Grover Norquist Committee”?
May as well, since all six Republicans named to the committee have signed Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” never, never, never to vote to raise taxes. On anybody. Or on any industry. Never, never, never.
To be honest, the Super Committee was a dead-end street from day one. The idea that 12 members of Congress would be any more likely to agree on a balanced debt-reduction plan in September than they were in July is a joke — especially now that we see its makeup.
With his three nominees, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid showed that he takes the work of the committee seriously. Patty Murray, Max Baucus and John Kerry are solid picks: experienced legislators who will enter the negotiations with an open mind and try to strike a fair compromise.
Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, clearly decided to sabotage the committee at the starting line. From the House, Boehner nominated three hard-liners: Jeb Hensarling, Dave Camp and Fred Upton. McConnell followed suit with Senators Jon Kyl, Rob Portman and Pat Toomey.
Talk about a stacked deck! Toomey, former head of the Club for Growth, is a leader of the tea party — and actually voted against the debt-reduction legislation that created the committee. Hensarling calls Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid “cruel Ponzi schemes.” During the debt-ceiling debate, Ways and Means Chair Camp said he’d rather have a bigger deficit than see taxes go up on “rich people.” Upton has declared that tax revenues “are just not going to be part of the equation.” As George Bush’s budget director, Portman championed, and still favors, the privatization of Social Security. And Kyl walked out of debt negotiations with Vice President Biden when Democrats suggested raising taxes on those making more than $500,000 a year.
Like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi took the high road, naming to the committee James Clyburn, Xavier Becerra, and Chris van Hollen — three responsible members with no agenda other than achieving the committee’s stated goal of a balanced compromise. But, given the Republicans’ already established intransigence, it didn’t really matter whom she appointed.
So, what are the chances of this gang’s willingness to accept any compromise made up of a necessary mix of budget cuts and new revenue? Zero. I have a better chance of qualifying for the next U.S. Olympic team. It’s impossible to reach a deal when half of the members draw a line in the sand against any new revenue before the first meeting.
The bigger question is: When will somebody finally challenge the fact that 235 Republican House members and 41 Republican senators have signed Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” never to vote for any tax increase? It’s outrageous. Think about it. Members of Congress take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. How can they also take an oath to uphold and defend a lobbyist?
That’s who Grover Norquist is. He’s a Republican lobbyist. President of Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington front group for right-wing foundations and big corporations. His stated goal is to cut the government in half by 2025. Or, as he more famously put it: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
Now, imagine for a second that any Democratic member of Congress had signed a pledge circulated by the AARP never to vote for any measure opposed by the seniors’ lobby. Republicans would cry foul. They’d demand his or her resignation. They’d certainly never allow them to sit on a bipartisan committee charged with solving our debt-reduction problems.
Yet that’s exactly what six Republican members of the so-called Super Committee have done. They’ve signed a loyalty oath. Not to their country or their constituents. They’ve signed an oath to a Republican lobbyist, putting their loyalty to Grover Norquist over their loyalty to the Constitution.
Which certainly makes it easier for them. Republicans won’t even have to show up. Just send Grover Norquist to the meetings. He’s going to make all their decisions, anyway.
© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.