Chambliss slams Norquist's anti-tax pledge
Republican lawmaker focuses on debt crisis
A top Republican U.S. senator brushed off the anti-tax pledge pushed by activist Grover Norquist and embraced widely for years by GOP lawmakers.
"I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," Sen. Saxby Chambliss told Georgia television station WMAZ, a CNN affiliate, on Wednesday. "If we do it his way, then we'll continue in debt and I just have a disagreement with him about that."
Congress faces a year-end deadline to reach agreement on taming the U.S. budget deficit or take other steps to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of mandatory tax increases and spending cuts that experts say would push the country back into recession.
At the heart of budget standoff is disagreement over how to raise new revenues to help reduce red ink.
President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats call for an increase in tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, while House Republicans, who control that chamber's majority, favor other approaches for brining in money, such as closing certain tax loopholes and eliminating deductions.
Norquist, who heads the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform, has been successful over the years in lobbying a strong majority of congressional Republicans to sign his pledge to not raise taxes.
Many GOP candidates who ran for office also signed the promise, but earlier this year, a small number of freshman lawmakers rejected the idea that they were bound to the document.
Chambliss, along with 38 other senators and 219 House members entering the next Congress, have signed the pledge, according to the website for Americans for Tax Reform.
But Chambliss, who has previously criticized Norquist's stronghold on anti-tax sentiments, said this week that the fiscal conservative's ideas stand in the way of finding a solution for ballooning debt.
"Norquist has no plan to pay this debt down," said Chambliss, who is up for re-election in 2014.
The anti-tax crusader has said he predicts congressional Republicans will stand firm and negotiate a deal that excludes tax hikes.
Asked if Chambliss is concerned Norquist may use his resources to combat a re-election bid, the senator said, "In all likelihood, yes."
"But I don't worry about that because I care too much about my country," he said. "I care a lot more about it than I do Grover Norquist."
The two-term senator from Georgia added he's "willing to do the right thing and let the political consequences take care of themselves."
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