Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, whom House Speaker John Boehner called “some random person” last month, addressed a group of House Republicans this morning to coach the GOP on its tax message at a private breakfast on Capitol Hill.
The group of Republicans, known as the Theme Team, meets weekly and is comprised of rank-and-file Republicans. The point of the meeting is to strategize messaging during One Minute speeches on the House floor, when members are permitted to discuss a topic of their choosing.
Although Republicans offered about $300 billion in new tax revenue during the Supercommittee negotiations, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blamed Norquist this morning for holding a tight grip on the GOP’s aversion to tax hikes – a pledge she believes ultimately killed the Supercommittee’s ability to strike a bipartisan agreement.
“As long as the Republicans have taken an oath to a lobbyist to not have any revenue as part of the package, [the Supercommittee] was never going to succeed because it would never have the balance that was necessary,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “The same thing that had the Republicans walk away from the table with the Biden talks, walk away from the president because of revenue – same thing happened here.”
Democrats are also using the breakfast to slam Republicans for their loyalty to the no-new-taxes pledge while Congress grapples over a plan to extend the payroll tax cuts.
“It’s hard to imagine what more House Republicans could learn from conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist after they’ve already embraced his hyper-partisanship and his reckless protection of tax breaks for Big Oil and billionaires, at the expense of Medicare and causing a payroll tax increase,” said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Maybe this should be less a training session for House Republicans and more a chance for the former students to acknowledge they’re now the masters.”
Last month Boehner downplayed Norquist’s influence when he said the House GOP conference “is opposed to tax hikes because we believe tax hikes will hurt our economy and put Americans out of work.”
“It’s not often I’m asked about some random person in America,” Boehner said Nov. 3. “Our focus is about creating jobs, not talking about somebody’s personality.”
Norquist, a regular target for Democrats, is president of the Americans for Tax Reform and also sits on a six-person advisory panel to nominate Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
“It was an historic opportunity to do something big, bold and balanced,” Pelosi said of the Supercommittee’s failure. “Our members … went to the table free to negotiate, recognize an opportunity when they saw it. I don’t know if the other members there on the Republican side had that much discretion.”