In the upcoming 113thCongress, 219 representatives and 39 senators have signed anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge, signifying that they would oppose any marginal tax increases and any reductions in tax credits or deductions.
This promise is knee-deep, of course, in the context of the fiscal cliff, which could be avoided if Congress inks a deal that pairs increased revenues with spending cuts.
Many Republicans, some who signed Norquist's pledge, recently noted that times are different and they must do what they believe is best for the country. (Read about a few of them here, here and here.)
For his part, Norquist reminds them that many high-profile politicians (see: poster boy George H. W. Bush) did not secure re-election after severing their promises.
And that's really the key: What do voters—the people who would actually hold tax-raising, promise-breaking feet to the fire—think? Would they support a principled, idealistic representative who sticks to vows? Or would they back a candidate open to pragmatism, a change of heart and a reversal of course? Do voters consider it flip-flopping or prudent government?
Yahoo News asked Americans who live in Norquist districts (read the full list for the 113th Congress) if they would penalize a politician at the voting both should he or she break from Norquist. In their own words, here are some excerpts from what they wrote this week.
Of the 11 congressional pledge-signers in Illinois, four lost outright to their Democratic challengers. One member, Tim Johnson, is retiring, and Don Manzullo lost to Adam Kinzinger in the Republican primary after redistricting. Peter Roskam—of the notoriously conservative northwest suburbs—is the only signer from the Chicagoland area to survive re-election in 2012. The remaining Republicans on the list are all from western, central and southern Illinois.
You cannot win a state-wide election without support from Chicago or its surrounding suburbs.
Signing the Norquist pledge feels like a betrayal to the electorate. It is a promise to honor Norquist over the constituents and the good of the nation. Rescinding that pledge isn't breaking a "promise;" it's remembering the promise made to voters in the first place.
I can't say, for sure, that I would vote for Mark Kirk if he rescinds the pledge, but I can say, with certainty, I will not vote to re-elect him if he doesn't.
—Isa-Lee Wolf, Illinois
One of my senators, John Cornyn, and my representative, John Culberson, are signers of Americans for Tax Reform pledge to not raise taxes. Incoming Sen. Elect Ted Cruz has also signed the pledge.
I fully expect for all three gentlemen to keep their promise and not vote to raise taxes as part of a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. The pledge they signed was a promise to their constituents and breaking it would show an unbecoming contempt for the people who voted for them. They could not expect to enjoy any support if they were to act so.
Raising taxes in the middle of an economic slowdown is madness and would likely push the American economy back into a recession. The federal budget contains sufficient bloat within it that cutting it would place the country back on the path of fiscal solvency without caving into President Obama's evident desire to punish to the so-called rich. Obama's re-election victory has not changed that fact.
—Mark Whittington, Texas
I live in the 9th congressional district of Virginia, in the coalfields near Roanoke, represented by H. Morgan Griffith. My district is known as "the fighting ninth," where politics are debated as passionately as the performance of the local high school football teams.
So far, Griffith has not come out and expressly stated whether he is willing to increase some taxes in exchange for reductions in spending in order to balance the budget and control the deficit. Recent statements indicate Griffith believes compromise is necessary to solve this and other challenges, so he may be open to such a deal to avoid pushing the country over the cliff.
I am not opposed to some temporary, modest increases in taxes as long as they are coupled with extensive spending cuts in every area of our budget, and will support Griffith if this is the stance he chooses.
—Lyn Brooks, Virginia
Rep. Bill Long, R-Mo., should feel free to break the promise he made to the lobbying group. When the representative takes his oath in January, he promises to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Nowhere does that sacred document mention Norquist, the man behind the pledge.
In the past, my representative argued the Bush tax cuts aren't responsible for huge deficits in government spending. Long also believes in a balance budget amendment by implementing tax code reform in the way of a fair tax based on consumer spending. However, Long hasn't agreed to raise taxes on anyone.
Combined with federal spending cuts, our citizens need to realize paying taxes is patriotic.
Let's do the math and raise some taxes.
—William Browning, Missouri
I live in Rep. Aaron Schock's district in Illinois. He has pledged not to raise taxes, signing the Americans for Tax Reform's taxpayer protection pledge.
Still, I would support Schock if he decided to raise taxes. But I don't consider that too likely because it seems like our leaders are divided along party lines as to how they will approach this crisis.
Illinois is in a terrible financial state. We have to cut spending or raise revenues (taxes). In early 2011, Illinois raised personal income tax by 66 percent, bumping the rate from 3 percent to 5 percent.
I feel Americans will support tax increases if they know the money is going to get their states or their country out of financial trouble. Still, judging by Illinois, taxing alone is clearly not the answer.
—Brad Boeker, Illinois
My U.S. representative is Mike Conaway, a Republican representing Texas' 11th district. He is one of the few Certified Public Accountants in Congress and should, therefore, be among the more rational Republicans in the intense fiscal cliff debates. Whether Conaway plans to follow Norquist's vehement anti-tax stance, Conaway should be open to compromise. In fact, I would likely vote against a Republican congressman who refused to compromise.
Compromise is key. While political principle is important, Congress must realize that they are dealing with issues that affect real people in substantial ways. Refusing to compromise indicates that people, families, and the health and welfare of employable citizens is less important than philosophical abstracts.
I must insist that my local Representative compromise. If he refuses to do so, he will lose my vote.
—Calvin Wolf, Texas
The timing of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" arriving in theaters contained some measure of prescience. That film reveals that rigid adherence to ideology is the greatest threat to democracy. The kind of pledge to agree to never raise taxes that every major Republican politician of our era signed on behalf of supporting Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform certainly has a place in the politics of totalitarianism, but not a representative democracy in which the needs of the many should outweigh the bullying of a single individual.
In Florida, Jeff Miller represents my district in the House of Representatives. Marco Rubio is our lone Republican Senator. Both have a demonstrated a severely disturbing willingness to put ideological purity ahead of doing what's best for the country. If they were to reject the white-collar terrorism of Grover Norquist's pledge, it would be first time I would not be ashamed to whisper their names in public.
—Timothy Sexton, Florida
I was excited to discover that at least one of my representatives in Congress has stated he will "violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country."
Living in the conservative buckle of the southern Bible Belt known as South Carolina, I assumed my representatives who signed the Norquist pledge would stubbornly refuse to compromise. However, Sen. Lindsey Graham has bravely acknowledged that Republicans should do what is best for the country even if that means bringing revenue to the table. Of course, he also demands that Democrats actually cut spending and enact entitlement reforms.
—Sophie Walton, South Carolina