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Lugar: Norquist tax pledge, others hamper Congress

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When anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist visited the Indiana Statehouse last week, he made a public plea for U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar to sign his anti-tax pledge.

But he might not be able to persuade the veteran senator to get on board.

Lugar is the only Republican in the state's Congressional delegation who hasn't signed Norquist's pledge, which requires the signer to "oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes." The pledge is popular in tea party circles, and for Lugar, who faces a tough primary challenge from State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a tea party favorite, signing it might seem to make sense.

But Lugar says he won't sign any political pledges because they tie lawmakers' hands. He told a group at a Kiwanis Club event in Indianapolis last month that the new generation of Washington lawmakers has made so many ironclad guarantees that negotiating a compromise on issues like raising the nation's debt ceiling has become extremely difficult.

"A good number of members said they are not in a position to vote for any plan," Lugar said before the debt ceiling talks intensified Sunday.

Pledges, many of them advanced from the right, are proliferating as candidates get closer to 2012. Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge is one of the oldest and has arguably the broadest reach in the nation. Since Norquist began selling it to lawmakers in 1986, the pledge has gathered signatures of more than 1,000 lawmakers.

The pledge found itself at the center of the national debate over the debt ceiling because of its broad and near-absolute influence on the many lawmakers who have signed it.

Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said he understands Lugar's concerns.

"You don't want to take the pledge unless you know you can keep it," he said.

But the discomfort with the pledge might go deeper, because it could box candidates in.

"It's not a pledge to me, it's not a pledge to Americans for Tax Reform, it's a pledge to the citizens of the United States," Norquist said. "What happens is the people who break the pledge have to go back to the people of their electorate and say, 'I know I told you I wouldn't (raise taxes) and I did.'"

Norquist's success in getting local, state and federal lawmakers to sign his anti-tax pledge helped fuel a national movement of interest groups drafting pledges to lock in politicians' fealty. That fealty, of course, is to the idea as much as the group pushing the idea.

Mourdock, who is challenging Lugar in the May 2012 Republican primary, has signed onto four political pledges thus far, campaign spokesman Chris Conner said.

Those include Norquist's pledge, the Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge, the Contract from America and a pledge to support the Parental Rights Amendment.

The Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge supports Republican calls for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. The Contract from America is a sweeping charter that calls for everything from repealing the federal health care overhaul law to supporting revamped energy policies. The Parental Rights Amendment would make it easier to homeschool children.

Every Republican in Indiana's congressional delegation voted in favor of the Cut Cap and Balance Act a few weeks ago. But as of Friday, only one Hoosier congressman — Rep. Dan Burton — had signed a pledge to support the act.

Lawmakers like Lugar say such pledges can create political gridlock. But while Norquist's pledge sounds pretty definitive, the debate over the debt ceiling exposed some loopholes.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Norquist said signers of his pledge could vote for President Barack Obama's plans to close tax loopholes and end tax credits without violating the pledge. He later walked that statement back some under fire from conservative activists

Generally speaking, if there was no net increase in tax revenue, it was safe to vote for a tax measure, he said last week.

"You really look at common sense on this. "If people look at it and say, 'That's a tax increase,' it is. The tie goes to the taxpayer," he said.

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  • Mr Smith
    JE Smith - keep drinking the cool aid. And you thought the mid-terms were bad for the Democrats!!
  • liberals are funny
    I love how the liberal bloggers feel that the debt is secondary to the Bush tax cuts. The liberal spend fest of course has nothing to do with the problem (and now lets bring up the "Bush Wars"!!) Hmm - the upper 2% pay the majority of taxes in this country.....and still they "don't pay their share"
  • As a Democrat...
    ...I thank you for working against Senator Lugar. That is the surest way for Indiana to get a Democrat back in the Senate.
  • party on!
    GO TEA PARTY! real change and so refreshing. so many democrats sticking up for lugar - what does that tell you? that RINO needs to go! the rest of you sheeple keep thinking dem or GOP, WHY? - both parties got us where we are today. WAKE UP!
    BE INDEPENDENT! increased spending is the problem. not a lack of revenue - CUT SPENDING!!!
  • Lugar is no RINO
    Calling Lugar a RINO presupposes the assumption that the tea party has
    taken over the Republican party. I like to think that the Republican
    party still has room for thoughtful statesmen who vote on behalf of
    their constituents instead of trying to please the blowhards at EIB and
    Fox News. I may very well be wrong, but I like to think that I'm not.
  • What is different now?
    It seems no one had an objection to not 'paying as we go' when G.W.Bush was running up the deficit.
  • sep party
    If the tea party is supposedly not repub or democrat, they should not solicit repub candidates and form their own party instead.
  • Yes, Really
    Robert, what you don't realize is that you are inadvertently defending the rich and big business. you're being duped by the wolves in sheep clothing.
  • the plege
    Yeah, the libertarian wing of the GOP is killing the traditional party. I hope after this debt ceiling fiasco that voters wise up and vote them out. our democracy isn't for the closed minded. There is absolutely no way to balance the budget without raising revenue.
  • Really?
    The tea party isn't fighting for the rich, you idiot, they are fight for you and every other middle class person. They just want the government to spend what they have and not barrow from yours and my kids. Lets try living with in our means for once. The tea party aren't Repubicans or Democrats, they just people that want to be free of dept. If you had your car paid off, how much more money would you have to spend on your family each month? That is the way it is. Pay as you go,PERIOD!!!!
    • Enough
      Who exactly proclaimed this idiot the spokeperson for the country? Enough of the self-serving egomanical loud-mouths!
    • narrow view
      Enough of the tea party trying to protect the wealthiest and their tax breaks. The nation seems to forgot that a lot of the policies that have driven us to this point were initiated by Repubs (medicare d, irag war). We don't need any more closed-minding thinking in Wash.
      • Norquist is a Donkey
        Norquist is a self-appointed ass. No one has elected him to represent them. He needs to take his arm-twisting tactics to Alabama, Mississsippi, and Georgia where his brand of right wing extremism is more acceptable. What are this guy's credentials, anyway? Senator Lugar is a conservative, yes, but first and foremost he is a statesman, an expert in foreign relations, experienced, and a man of unquestioned integrity. I'm a democrat, but I'm voting for Senator Lugar.
      • Lugar Record
        Please educate yourself on Lugar's record before making comments. He voting record is one of the most conservative in the Senate, however he is no fool and is smart stateman which is what we need in Washington to actually get us out of the mess those on the far left and far right have created.
      • Too much spending
        We are in trouble because Congress will not restrain its spending.We are broke and yet Congress wants to spend more money(i.e. print it!)I am tired of compromise for the sake of compromise with Conservatives always being the ones to give up their principles. So, start cutting spending and stop spending!
      • pledge
        I pledge to not vote for politians that sign pledges.
      • Really
        Lugar, must go. The comments above must be from people that work for Lugar. Lugar is nothing but a liberial patsy. He is a Rhino,and I plan to help in anyway to see that he is NOT re-elected.
        • lugar-norquist tax pledge
          Only an idiot would sign this pledge condsidering the current level of taxation of the high income taxpayers in the U.S. George W. got us into this mess and his tax policies and those of the Republican Party were largely responsible. Lugar is 100% right and should be an example to his fellow party members. The Tea Party may destroy the traditional Republican Party.
        • Lugar is right.
          Senator Lugar is right on this issue. As we have just seen in trying to get the debit crisis solved, it was hampered in a large part by the tea partyers who don't know what they are doing. They obviously got in over their heads when the voters voted for change. I doubt that is the type of change the people who voted for them wanted.
          I am a Democrat, always will be a Democrat and proud to be a Democrat, but I have looked towards Lugar for a fair opposing viewpoint and am looking forward to hearing from him after the next election.
        • Pledges anti-democratic
          Senator Lugar is absolutely right. Norquist's pledge and others may please zealots but make negotiations in Congress even more difficult. Mr Mourdock seems to have missed US History and Civics classes where he would have learned that compromise and dialog are fundamental to democracy.
        • tax pledge
          I think Lugar is right, how does a congressman, or senator know how the voters feel on every issue. Take these issues to the voters.ffhypi without

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        1. Can your dog sign a marriage license or personally state that he wishes to join you in a legal union? If not then no, you cannot marry him. When you teach him to read, write, and speak a discernible language, then maybe you'll have a reasonable argument. Thanks for playing!

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