WITH A HANDFUL of exceptions, every Republican member of Congress has signed a pledge against increasing taxes. Would allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled in 2012 violate this vow? We posed this question to Grover Norquist, its author and enforcer,and his answer was both surprising and encouraging: No.
Of course, letting the tax cuts expire is decidedly not Mr. Norquist’s preference. Indeed, as a matter of policy, he is passionately opposed to a single dime in new tax revenue. But the fact that Mr. Norquist interprets his own pledge to permit such conduct suggests that Republican lawmakers who have been browbeaten into abjuring any tax increase, at any time, for any reason, may not be as boxed in as they believe. The official Republican line has been that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, even for those earning more than $250,000, would be a job-killing tax increase. The fact that the godfather of the pledge does not interpret the lapse as an increase is significant.