From the guardian:
[Grover] Norquist holds no elected office but is one of the most powerful figures in Washington, head of a lobbying and activist group Americans for Tax Reform. Democrats blame him for the impasse over deficit reduction.
The Democratic senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry described him as the “13th member” of the 12-member congressional super-committee given the task of drawing up a plan to reduce the country’s $15tn national deficit.
Kerry and other Democrats complained that Norquist’s name was repeatedly invoked by the Republicans, and the word “pledge” came up over and over again.
The committee on Monday confirmed it was unable to reach an agreement on how to reduce the deficit.
The Democratic co-chair of the committee, Patty Murray, speaking to CNN on Sunday, said: “As long as we have some Republican lawmakers who feel more enthralled with a pledge they took to a Republican lobbyist than they do to a pledge to the country to solve the problems, this is going to be hard to do.”
On Monday, Norquist denied that he was to blame. The problem, he countered, is that the Democrats want higher taxes and that was not up for debate.
In spite of his denial, Norquist holds a lot of sway over Republicans. He has been pressing Republican candidates to sign his lobby group’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge since founding Americans for Tax in 1985. President Reagan signed up the following year.
Today, 238 out of the 242 Republicans in the House have signed the pledge, along with 41 out of the 47 Republican senators. All six Republican members of the supercommittee have signed the pledge. Of the GOP presidential candidates, the only one not to sign the pledge is Jon Huntsman, the most moderate figure in the race.
The Taxpayer Protection Pledge is a powerful lever. If a Republican member of Congress was to vote for tax increases, the pledge can be waved in front of voters – when that member sought re-election – as evidence of hypocrisy. That member of Congress would likely to face a primary challenge.
Norquist hangs on to the signatures decade after decade. For him, the promise is for life, regardless of changes in the country’s economic conditions.
Norquist is a mainstream conservative on issues other than tax and is a director of the board of the National Rifle Association.
On tax, however, it is hard to overstate his hold on the party. Newt Gingrich, currently enjoying a surge in support for his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, puts it simply.
Norquist, he says, is “the single most effective conservative activist in the country”.
I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.
Newt Gingrich (to Occupy Wall Street protesters):
Go get a job, right after you take a bath.
Well, you won’t be President, you disgusting bastard, so you had better take a bath and then go get a job.