Americans For Tax Reform Fighting To Stay Relevant After Ethanol Fight Shatters No-Tax Pledge

June 17, 2011 5:04 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Grover Norquist

Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist is furious that the Senate voted to end tax breaks for ethanol producers without a corresponding tax cut to offset the takeaway. For months now, Norquist and his group, Americans for Tax Reform, have warned lawmakers that voting for the ethanol amendment would violate the group's ideologically rigid Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The dispute has resulted in a public spat between Norquist and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the main sponsor of the amendment. In an interview with National Review Online, Norquist says Coburn is "trying to screw the rest of the Republican party because he is so mad at the world."

Norquist is understandably upset, but Americans for Tax Reform is singing an entirely different tune. A statement from the group carries the headline, "ATR applauds Passage of Sens. Feinstein/Coburn Ethanol Amendment." Wait, what?

Robert Reich sums up what is going on:

In order to save face on today's vote, Norquist says renegade Republicans will still be considered to have adhered to the pledge if they vote in favor of an amendment offered by Senator Jim DeMint to eliminate the estate tax. Talk about grasping at straws. DeMint's amendment isn't even up for a vote.

In short, the no-tax pledge is evaporating in the fresh air of reality.

What are anti-tax Republicans to do now?

Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC) amendment has absolutely no chance of passing. ATR's support for it is meant to take away from the fact that Senate Republicans had rebuked Norquist and the ATR pledge by voting for a "tax increase." The only way to save face is to act like this was the plan all along.

It wasn't. It remains to be seen whether the larger bill to which the amendment is attached will pass; everything is still very much in the air regarding the ethanol subsidy. But one thing is undeniable: Grover Norquist and ATR lost.