The GOP's top anti-tax crusader acknowledged Wednesday that Congress could indeed raise taxes, but he warned that the GOP shouldn't want any part of it.
"A handful of people [are] having impure thoughts," Norquist said of cluster of Republicans, most notably Sens. Saxby Chambless, Bob Corker, and Lindsey Graham, who have signaled openness to a fiscal-cliff deal that would raise tax revenue and violate the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) Taxpayer Protection Pledge, authored by Norquist in 1986, that has been a rallying cry for GOP unity against tax hikes for decades.
The Americans for Tax Reform president was interviewed onstage at a breakfast hosted by Politico at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
It's "the same six guys saying the same things" they've said before, Norquist told interviewer Mike Allen of Politico, specifically calling out Graham, who has previously said he'd support a deal including a 10-to-one ratio of spending cuts to tax hikes.
"And they never raised taxes," Norquist said. "I don't want to be too rough on a Saxby Chambliss-he's never voted to raise taxes, he just talked about maybe someday."
Norquist has steadfastly denied that Republicans will ever allow a tax increase, but on Wednesday he acknowledged the possibility that Democrats could have their way. That won't be the worst thing for Republicans and anti-tax advocates, he said.
"You can lose a fight and end up with the issue significantly stronger," Norquist said after repeated pressing by Allen. "I'm not planning on losing the tax debate we're having right now, but the tax issue will be more powerful in 2014."
The key for Republicans to win politically, if they lose this tax fight, is unifying against any deal to raise taxes, Norquist said. "If you have your fingerprints all over the murder weapon," Norquist said, Republicans can't run against an eventually unpopular tax-hike deal in future elections.