Nothing riles up the tea party chattering class like a broken pledge against raising taxes.
Just ask Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a veteran Georgia Republican who this week turned his back on the Taxpayer Protection Pledge he signed years ago as a rite of passage in right-wing politics.
Immediately labeled "worthless" and "a liar" on the website Tea Party Nation, Chambliss symbolizes the political conundrum facing GOP leaders after President Barack Obama's re-election.
After years of opposing higher taxes on anyone, Republicans now are under pressure to work out a comprehensive agreement to reduce the nation's chronic federal deficits and debt.
That means a compromise with Obama and Democrats, who insist on more tax revenue being part of a package that includes spending cuts and entitlement reforms.
Congress returns to Washington next week after the Thanksgiving break with just over a month to work out the blueprint for a deal that would avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, a combination of steep across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases set to occur at the end of the year.
Facing imminent unpopular scenarios such as higher taxes for everyone and further cuts in military spending, the negotiations taking place behind closed doors in Washington have new impetus to produce results.
Obama's victory this month with a slightly stronger Democratic majority in the Senate and a slightly weaker Republican majority in the House signaled general public acceptance of the president's main campaign theme: raising more tax revenue from the rich as part of a deficit-reduction package.
In particular, Obama and Democrats insist that wealthy Americans, so far identified as those with income higher than $200,000 for individuals or $250,000 for families, should pay more taxes than they do now so that rates for everyone else stay the same.
However, the new Congress to be seated in January includes 39 senators, including Chambliss, and 219 House members who have signed the anti-tax pledge pushed by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, according to the group's website.
The House total constitutes a narrow majority in the 435-seat chamber, though some members have denounced their allegiance to the pledge much like Chambliss did Wednesday in an interview with CNN affiliate WMAZ, a Georgia television station.
"I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," said Chambliss, who faces re-election for a third Senate term in 2014.
Referring to Norquist, who has vowed to oppose candidates who break the pledge, Chambliss said that "if we do it his way, then we'll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that."
In response to Chambliss, Norquist told CNN that the senator "wrote a commitment to the voters of Georgia."
"He got elected and re-elected making that commitment," said Norquist. "He's never promised me anything."
Norquist said he believes Chambliss was "caught" on a TV station and that "he said some things perhaps that didn't make sense."
If the senator wants to "change his mind and become a tax increaser," Norquist said, "he needs to have that conversation with the people of Georgia."
Chambliss acknowledged that Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform will likely work against his re-election because of the issue.
"But I don't worry about that because I care too much about my country," Chambliss said, adding that he was "willing to do the right thing and let the political consequences take care of themselves."
Possible consequences were evident on Friday.
"To call Chambliss an idiot is to insult people of lower intelligence," blogger Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation wrote. "Chambliss is a poster child for every thing that is wrong with the political class in Washington."
Later in his post, Phillips sharpened his point: "If you give your word and you break your word, then you are a liar."
Phillips also called Chambliss the worst RINO -- Republican In Name Only -- in Washington, citing an acronym that conservatives use for those they consider to be sell-out politicians.
"If you are a worthless Republican politician and you want some good press from the liberal media," Phillips wrote, "all you have to do now days is say you are considering abandoning your pledge not to raise taxes."
However, other conservative voices, including veteran Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, have questioned whether the Norquist pledge remains politically relevant in the face of the mounting federal debt and Obama's re-election.