Newly elected Yoho won't sign Norquist anti-tax pledge


Gainesville resident Ted Yoho talks with supporters after claiming victory in the U.S. House District 3 race in this Nov. 6 file photo. Yoho has opted not to sign Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge.

Rob C. Witzel/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 1:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 1:59 p.m.

Perched above Washington's so-called fiscal cliff, several senior Republican lawmakers appear to be back-pedaling from anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and his renowned pledge.

But for Alachua County's congressional delegation, signing or avoiding the pledge does not seem to be that big a deal.

Neither of the county's representatives in the next Congress added their names to Norquist's legions in this election year.

For the upcoming Congress, 219 House members and 39 senators are declared supporters of the pledge.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat, is not on the pledge list. And newly elected Ted Yoho is one of only 16 House Republicans who did not join Norquist's ranks.

Yoho, a Gainesville Republican, narrowly defeated veteran incumbent Rep. Cliff Stearns in the August primary and then won the general election in November.

Yoho was a tea party favorite and a proponent of the Fair Tax, the plan to implement a national sales tax to replace most federal levies. Yet Yoho is shown as a non-signer of the pledge, according to the website for Norquist's organization, Americans for Tax Reform, or ATR.

Yoho, who beat Stearns, a Norquist backer, told NPR on Wednesday that he declined to endorse the pledge because "signing a pledge is not going to fix our debt problems, our financial woes in this country."

"The only pledge I made is that I said I would serve eight years," added Yoho. "If you sign a pledge like (Norquist's), you've got handcuffs on."

Yoho said he might consider higher taxes, such as on the wealthiest Americans, but only after it has been demonstrated to him that revenues are still short despite the implementation of significant spending cuts and that all the waste, fraud and abuse has been wrung out of the budget.

The current Congress contains 238 House members and 41 senators as pledge supporters, according to ATR.

All but six House Republicans signed the pledge, including all of Florida's GOP delegation. Just seven GOP senators declined to sign.

Meanwhile, two House Democrats and one Democratic senator are on board — none of them from Florida.

Only one Democrat in the next Congress has adopted the pledge: New Jersey Rep. Robert Andrews.

Right after Election Day, the liberal group Think Progress pointed out that at least 79 Republican House and Senate candidates, including some incumbents, who had signed Norquist's pledge were defeated.

Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" was instituted in 1986 with an endorsement of President Ronald Reagan, according to ATR's website. Reagan that year enacted a landmark overhaul of the tax code.

Reagan's revisions cut the rate on top earners from 50 percent to 28 percent and on corporations from 46 percent to 34 percent. The 1986 law also raised the rate for those on the bottom rung from 11 percent to 15 percent, increased the capital gains rate to 28 percent from 20 percent, and eliminated many tax shelters and loopholes.

Norquist's pledge states plainly that the endorser vows to oppose "any and all" efforts to raise marginal tax rates on individuals and businesses and to fight any net reduction or elimination of tax deductions or credits unless accompanied by a matching cut in rates.

"The idea of the Pledge is simple enough: Make them put their no-new-taxes rhetoric in writing," ATR's website says.

ATR adds, "In the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, candidates and incumbents solemnly bind themselves to oppose any and all tax increases. ... Since the Pledge is a prerequisite for many voters, it is considered binding as long as an individual holds the office for which he or she signed the Pledge."

In recent days, as Congress tries to hammer out a budget compromise, a few Republicans have indicated a willingness to jump the Norquist ship in order to avoid going over the fiscal cliff.

The list of would-be defectors includes Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bob Corker of Tennessee. U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York also might be among them.

Norquist told NPR this week that he's not worried about GOP lawmakers breaking their vow, noting that recent news reports could have been recycled from the 2010 elections.

He added that he believes the Republicans will not buckle because Democrats will fail to produce any "iron-clad" budget cuts that will win GOP support for higher revenues.

Several taxes are expected to go up on Jan. 1. Those include the tax cuts enacted by President George W. Bush, the estate tax, and the temporary reduction in the payroll taxes. Five new taxes also will be introduced under the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile, $109 billion in spending cuts are scheduled to occur in accordance with the budget deal reached in 2011. Those reductions are split between defense and social programs.

Contact Bill Thompson at 352-867-4117 or bill.thompson@starbanner.com

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