October 04, 2011 12:31 pm ET - by Matt Finkelstein
Today on the House floor, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) ripped into Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) president Grover Norquist and his organization's infamous Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Wolf is one of only six Republicans in the House (and seven in the Senate) who have not signed the pledge, which represents a commitment by lawmakers to oppose anything that increases tax revenue, including the elimination of loopholes. After rattling off a list of Norquist's personal and financial connections, including alleged ties to terror supporters, Wolf argued that the ATR pledge is "paralyzing Congress":
WOLF: I raise these concerns today in the context of dealing with the future of our country. America is in trouble. Unemployment is over 9 percent. Housing values continue to decline. Retirement accounts are threatened. The American people are worried, yet Washington is tragically shackled in ideological gridlock. Some are dead-set against any change to entitlement programs while others insist that any discussion of tax policy is off the table. We are at a point today that the tsunami of debt in America demands that every piece of the budget be scrutinized. And that means more than just cutting waste fraud and abuse and discretionary programs. The real runaway spending is carried in our out of control entitlement cost and the hundreds of billions in annual tax earmarks in our tax code. Until we reach an agreement that addresses those two drivers of our deficit and debts, we cannot right our fiscal ship of state.
Everything must be on the table. And I believe how the pledge is interpreted and enforced by Mr. Norquist is a roadblock to realistically reforming our tax code. When Sen. Tom Coburn recently called for eliminating the special interest ethanol tax subsidies, who led the opposition? Mr. Norquist. Have we already forgotten the battle over earmarks last year? Unlike an earmark included in an annual appropriation bill, tax earmarks are far worse because once enacted they typically exist in perpetuity. Have we really reached a point where one person's demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?
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