The fiscal cliff looms, and several top GOP lawmakers are looking for something akin to a balanced approach when it comes to solving the issue.
In aiming to be less rigid, some members of the GOP are distancing themselves from Grover Norquist, the man who popularized an anti-tax pledge signed by many GOP members of the House and Senate.
Yet Joe Scarborough signaled something of a defense for Norquist on Tuesday’s show when discussing a column by The New York Times‘ Frank Bruni asking the question “Is Grover Finally Over?“
“He’s a public relations genius. All of Grover’s power doesn’t come from Grover. He’s not like the puppet master,” Scarborough said. “The only reason Grover has any power is because he chose an issue that guys like me believe in anyway…Grover’s not the bad guy.”
Scarborough is a former GOP congressman from Florida, and his comments on Norquist arrive as high-profile GOP members including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia–all signers of Norquist’s pledge–are signaling their willingness to break the pledge.
“We’re so far in debt, that if you don’t give up some ideological ground, the country sinks,” Sen. Graham told ABC’s Jonathan Karl.
Norquist became a much-discussed figure in 2011 during the debt reduction debacle. Here’s how 60 Minutes described Norquist’s influence last year:
The person at the heart of those negotiations – and some would say the person responsible for the deadlock – is neither a member of Congress nor the holder of any public office. He is a lobbyist and a conservative activist named Grover Norquist who, over the years, has gotten virtually every Republican congressman and senator to sign an oath called “The Pledge.” It’s a promise that they will never, under any circumstances, vote to raise taxes on anyone. And so far Grover Norquist has held them to it, controlling 279 votes, including the speaker of the House, the Senate minority leader and all six Republican members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction.
Of course, Norquist has shot back now that some signers of the pledge are considering running in the other direction.
But Scarborough is saying not-so-fast.
“Grover is over when Americans think they aren’t taxed enough…he’s not close to being over,” Scarborough said.