WASHINGTON -- Grover Norquist, the keeper of anti-tax conservatism, gave his blessing Wednesday to House Speaker John A. Boehner’s plan to increase taxes on those earning more than $1 million a year.
Norquist’s change of heart is a substantial shift for the president of Americans for Tax Reform, who for more than 25 years has been the enforcer of no-new-taxes purity in the Republican Party.
“Republicans supporting this bill are this week affirming to their constituents in writing that this bill -- the sole purpose of which is to prevent tax increases -- is consistent with the pledge they made to them,” Norquist’s organization said in a statement. “In ATR’s analysis, it is extremely difficult -- if not impossible -- to fault these Republicans’ assertion.”
“ATR will not consider a vote for this measure a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” the group wrote.
The strict anti-tax orthodoxy enforced by Norquist’s organization has come under fire as the nation faces the “fiscal cliff” budget crisis. Leading Republicans have parted ways with Norquist, saying they are no longer beholden to the pledge they signed, often years ago, with today’s difficult economic circumstances.
Boehner’s proposal, his “Plan B” in budget talks with President Obama, is set to come to a vote on Thursday in the House. It would continue the current tax rates, which are scheduled to expire at year’s end, for all but the wealthiest of Americans -- those earning above $1 million a year.
The move by the speaker to bring his plan for a vote stalled talks with Obama, though he and the president are expected to continue negotiating a broader budget deal. Obama has set the tax-hike threshold lower, at $400,000 a year, in a substantial shift of his own, compared with his previous call for tax-rate increases on households earning $250,000a year or more.
The House bill, if approved, is not expected to pass the Senate.