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GROVER NORQUIST: Will Coburn Cave On Tax Hikes or Keep His Promise to the People of Oklahoma?

If the 2012 election is about too much spending in Washington D.C., President Obama is in real trouble.

Obama, Reid and Pelosi began their reign in 2009 when they launched a spending spree that included stimulus spending, bank bailouts, union bailouts, a trillion dollar hike in domestic discretionary spending and then trillions more coming in the form of health care spending and corporate bailouts galore.

Obama's 2012 budget continues and increases this spending. (His first two years have been one long "Seinfeld" episode--no learning has taken place.) The president's budget raises taxes by $1.5 trillion in higher income taxes over the next decade.

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, now passed by the Republican Congress drops Obama's spending by $6 trillion dollars. He stops the government take over of health care. He ends the bailouts. The Democrats' tax hike plans are stopped.

If nothing changes, this stark difference between Democrats and Republicans will lead to a repeat of the 2010 crushing defeat for Democrats.

That is why Obama set up a deficit commission, sometimes called the Simpson/Bowles Commission to focus, not on the country's spending problem, but rather on the resulting deficits. Too much spending can only be remedied by spending less. 

The deficit, on the other, hand can be "fixed" by spending less, or (and this is an option Democrats like better)--by raising taxes through the roof. The Commission called for one or two trillion in higher taxes. It promised some spending cuts, also. Maybe.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, previously known as an opponent of earmarks, was on the Obama commission and voted for the massive tax increase proposal. He has joined the "Gang of Six" led by Obama's best friend in the Senate, Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois. That commisison says it will soon (they have inexplicably been delaying for 3 months) put the Obama Commission's report into legislative language.

There is a small problem. Coburn has signed the taxpayer protection pledge, a written commitment to the citizens of Oklahoma that he would "oppose and vote against" any tax increase. 

When he was warned about the massive tax increases in the Obama Commission report, he and two other Republican Senators in the "Gang of Six," Mike Crapo of Idaho and Saxby Chambliss of Geogia, wrote a public letter promising that the only increases in tax revenue they would support would flow from higher economic growth--not tax hikes. 

The exact wording of their promise was:  

"If and when there is a legislative proposal to be presented to Congress and the American people, we look forward to again working with you and all interested parties to support a proposal where any increase in revenue generation will be the result of the pro-growth effects of lower individual and corporate taxrates for all Americans."

But there is real pressure from liberal Senators Dick Durbin and Kent Conrad demanding big tax hikes. And Senator Coburn has suggested in some media appearances that he may abandon his written promise to Oklahoma citizens to oppose tax hikes and join the Democrats in promoting trillions in higher taxes to pay for Obama's spending. This is known as the Stockholm Syndrome kicking in.

Coburn's tax hikes would never pass the Republican House of Representatives. Other Republicans in the Senate just endorsed, unanimously, a balanced budget amendment that would require a two thirds vote for any tax hike and limit government spending to 18% of GDP.

Coburn would not be the first Republican tricked into losing focus on the big picture--government spending--and chasing after the deficit with real tax hikes and promises of spending restraint. This was tried in 1982 and 1990 and the tax hikes were real and permanent, spending went up, not down and Republicans were smashed in the next election.

Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a taxpayer advocacy group he founded in 1985 at President Reagan's request. ATR is a coalition of taxpayer groups, individuals and businesses opposed to higher taxes at the federal, state and local levels. ATR organizes the TAXPAYER PROTECTION PLEDGE, which asks all candidates for federal and state office to commit themselves in writing to oppose all tax increases. In the 112th Congress, 237 House members and 41 Senators have taken the pledge. On the state level, 13 governors and 1249 state legislators have taken the pledge.

 Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform. Follow him on Twitter @GroverNorquist.

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