Throwing Promises Off The Cliff

By Maria Stavrou

Stories about the impending ‘fiscal cliff’ have been dominating the news lately, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle accusing those on the other of being unwilling to compromise to reach a solution in order to avert it. Central to this controversy has been Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, whose “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” has for the most part attracted criticism from Democrats. In recent weeks, however, there has been a growing number of Republicans, most notably Senators Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who have been surprisingly vocal about their willingness to violate the pledge in order to mitigate the issue.

The Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which has been signed by hundreds of lawmakers since 1986, seeks to bind those running for office to their stated opposition to vote for any and all tax increases. Contrary to what many may believe, the pledge is not an oath to Norquist or to Americans For Tax Reform – it is a promise to the constituents of the lawmaker’s district. Although Sens. Chambliss and Graham have both signed it, instead of pushing for drastic spending cuts in the face of the ‘fiscal cliff’, they have attempted to justify their changes of heart concerning tax increases using patriotic rhetoric.

Sen. Chambliss recently stated that “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge”, while Sen. Graham said he will “violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.” Perhaps emboldened by their fellow Republicans, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and Representative Peter King of New York have also made statements alluding to a belief that they should not be held accountable for possible future violations of the pledge.

In not only openly bucking traditional conservative fiscal policy, but in blatantly turning their backs on a promise to their constituents, lawmakers such as Sens. Chambliss and Graham should realize this is not going unnoticed back home. Tea Party groups around the country, combined with the ever-growing “liberty” movement inspired by Rep. Ron Paul, are becoming increasingly upset with the inability of Washington to address the issues of taxation and government spending. Any congressman who does not take promises to their constituents seriously should not be surprised by growing efforts to hold them accountable. If Sens. Chambliss, Graham, and others like them continue to rationalize tax hikes by utilizing rhetoric that sounds no different than that espoused on the left, they do so at the risk of further alienating these activists.

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