WASHINGTON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Prominent American anti-tax
crusader Grover Norquist on Monday insisted that his movement
was as strong as ever and that Congress would withstand pressure
to raise taxes even if more Republican lawmakers are sp urning
his anti-tax pledge.
A vast majority of elected Republicans have signed
Norquist's "taxpayer protection pledge," launched in 1986, which
commits them to voting against tax increases, and it became a
sort of litmus test among U.S. conservatives.
But the new House of Representatives, which takes office in
January, has 16 Republicans who so far have not signed the
pledge, up from six in the outgoing Congress. One new Republican
senator, Jeff Flake, also has not signed.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Washington event, Norquist
told Reuters: "People don't always take the pledge first when
they run. A lot take it after they have been there for a while.
The pledge isn't the only vehicle for stopping tax increases."
At the event, sponsored by the nonpartisan Center for the
National Interest think tank where Norquist is a board member,
he predicted House Republicans would withstand pressure from
Democratic President Barack Obama to raise taxes.
Obama won re-election this month on a promise to raise tax
rates on the wealthiest households while extending low tax rates
for most other taxpayers down the income ladder.
He and Congress are trying to keep the country from falling
off the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of the year when some
$500 billion in tax cuts will expire and another $100 billion in
automatic budget cuts will kick in.
Democrats gained seats in the both the 100-member Senate and
the 435-member House with some Republicans softening their
opposition to raising new tax revenue.
Though Republicans were stung by their electoral losses,
Norquist said they can force Obama to compromise on tax
increases and spending cuts by using the debt ceiling as
"The debt limit is an additional tool to explain to Obama
that he is not the king," Norquist said. "He has to go to
Congress for resources."
The U.S. Treasury Department has said it will have enough
funds to avoid the ceiling until near the end of the year, and
experts say they can use accounting maneuvers to delay the limit
Some Republicans have assailed Norquist for his
intransigence on tax increases. Former Republican Senator Alan
Simpson, co-chairman of the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction
commission, last week lambasted Republican supporters of the
"What can Grover (Norquist) do to you? He can't murder you.
He can't burn your house," Simpson said at an event hosted by
the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, an anti-budget deficit group.