Amid questions over whether he’s lost his clout following the defection of a handful of Republicans from his famed no-new-taxes pledge, Grover Norquist wasn’t letting anyone see him sweat at a breakfast sponsored by Politico Wednesday morning.
“I have job security that most people don’t have, OK,” Norquist said. “At least the marijuana legalization people could end up out of a job in a couple of years, if they win. We’re always going to feel that our taxes are too high.”
Norquist made the point, half-jokingly, that the country was founded after the colonies decided they couldn’t live with taxation equivalent to between 1 and 2 percent of GDP.
“Now that the government’s taking about a third of our stuff -- the idea that people want higher taxes or will put up with higher taxes,” he said, “doesn’t show up.”
When pressed over whether his image is taking a hit – Politico reporter Mike Allen noted that a source likened Norquist to an aging “’70s rock-star who hasn’t cut his hair” – Norquist dismissed the idea.
“Opposing tax increases, is that a fashion? That person’s an idiot,” he said, to laughter. He repeatedly observed that the "five or six people" who have distanced themselves from the pledge this week are the same people who wavered "two years ago" -- without ultimately voting for a tax increase.
With regard to the fiscal cliff, Norquist took issue with the argument, pushed by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and other Democrats, that if Republicans simply waited for taxes to go up automatically at the end of the year and then cut them for 98 percent of people, they wouldn’t technically be increasing taxes on the top two percent.
Republicans, he said “can’t have their fingerprints on the murder weapon.”
Still, if taxes do end up increasing, a prospect looking increasingly likely, it won’t spell death for the pledge, according to Norquist.
“You can lose a fight and end up with the issue significantly stronger,” Norquist said, before noting that after former President George H.W. Bush raised taxes in 1990, “Ivory soap percentages” of people running for office rushed to sign the pledge.
“I didn’t have to send anybody a press release in 1990 that said, ‘Did you notice Bush raised taxes?’” he said. “They noticed.”
This post has been updated to reflect that Allen is a reporter at Politico.