* Norquist says Boehner plan would not violate anti-tax
* Club for Growth urges rejection, calling it "anti-growth"
* Conflicting assessments may complicate efforts to pass it
WASHINGTON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Leading U.S. anti-tax
activist Grover Norquist gave his blessing on Wednesday to House
Speaker John Boehner's plan to avert the "fiscal cliff,"
concluding that despite complaints to the contrary, it would
adhere to Republican lawmakers' pledges not to raise taxes.
But more than a dozen other conservative figures and groups,
including the Tea Party Express and the Heritage Foundation,
They urged lawmakers to oppose the plan when it comes up for
a vote on Thursday in the House of Representatives.
Some even warned that legislators who back Boehner's plan,
risk being voted out of office in 2014.
Technically, Boehner's proposal, which has been dubbed "Plan
B," does not include a tax increase. What it does is prevent any
tax hikes on annual incomes of up to $1 million, thus permitting
tax increases on higher incomes.
That seemed to be enough of a distinction for Norquist's
Americans for Tax Reform to say the plan does not violate its
"Having finally seen actual legislation in writing, ATR is
now able to make its determination," Norquist's group said in a
one-page statement. "ATR will not consider a vote for this
measure a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge."
The Club for Growth read the bill differently.
"On the substance, this bill is anti-growth," said Andy
Roth, the group's vice president for government affairs.
"It increases tax rates for those making over $1 million
while also raising taxes on capital gains and dividends," Roth
said. "We don't buy into the Washington-speak, suggesting that
these are actually tax cuts."
Brent Bozell, president of ForAmerica, a conservative
advocacy group, said: "Fiscal conservatives will not stand for
this. If Republicans support the tax increase, they will lose
control of the House in 2014."
The conflicting conservative assessments will complicate
efforts by Boehner to defy a White House veto threat and get his
plan through the House and to the Senate for consideration.
House Republican leaders have voiced confidence that their
chamber will sign off on Boehner's plan, cranking up pressure on
Obama and fellow Democrats in the Senate to make concessions.
But Democrats have denounced the plan, portraying it as a
misguided distraction from on-again, off-again talks between the
president and the speaker.
Boehner's "Plan B" would shield more than 99 percent of
Americans from a tax hike. But it would let tax rates
automatically rise on annual incomes of more than $1 million, as
scheduled, on Jan. 1.
Obama has proposed a threshold of $400,000 a year in income,
up from an earlier $250,000. Any tax increase would be part of a
long-sought deal to reduce the U.S. budget deficit.
Unless the White House and Congress reach agreement by the
end of the month, a crush of tax hikes and spending cuts are set
to take effect, threatening to push the United States over the
so-called "fiscal cliff" and back into a recession.
Boehner and fellow Republicans had long demanded that all
tax cuts signed into law by Republican President George W. Bush
be extended before they expire next month.
But Boehner caved, noting that Obama had won re-election
last month promising to raise taxes on the wealthy and thus had
the upper hand.
Norquist began circulating his anti-tax pledge to members of
Congress in 1986. Over the years, it has been signed by most
Republican, helping block countless efforts by Democrats to
raise taxes and expand government.
The assessment of Boehner's plan by Norquist's group was
quickly circulated by the speaker's office.
"This legislation ... permanently prevents a tax increase on
families making less than $1 million per year," ATR said in its
"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," ATR said.
Roth denounced the bill, however, and said lawmakers' votes
on it would be used in his group's annual "scorecard" of members
Representative Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican, said he
would vote against the bill but declined to predict how many of
his colleagues would oppose it. Republicans recently stripped
Huelskamp of a committee assignment amid complaints he was