The Corner

Norquist to Coburn: Drop Out

Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, is declaring political war on Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.).

Norquist, in an interview with National Review Online this afternoon, called on Coburn to drop out of the “Gang of Six,” a bipartisan group of senators working on deficit reduction. “Coburn is negotiating with President Obama’s best friend in the Senate, Dick Durbin,” he said. “They are playing Coburn like a Stradivarius. Durbin is walking him down into an alley where he is going to get mugged.”

“He should walk away as soon as possible,” Norquist said. “He should say that all the Democrats want to do is raise taxes, and we’ve got the Ryan plan, so let’s fight this out in 2012. Otherwise he is going to cost us Senate seats right across the board.”

Earlier today, Coburn appeared on Laura Ingraham’s radio show and said that the “Gang of Six” has “no plan to have a significant tax hike on anyone.” He also hinted that some people may “pay increased taxes,” if the group decides to lower marginal rates and eliminate various tax credits.

Norquist emphasized to NRO that if this type of agreement is brokered, it will be political poison. “Anything that smells like Simpson-Bowles will not be politically popular, but it will enable Democrats to say, ‘We have a plan that is okay, and it’s not Ryan.’”

Norquist argued that by supporting such a “Gang of Six” deal, Coburn would be throwing a rope to vulnerable Democrats. Voters, he predicted, may ask, “‘What’s wrong with Ben Nelson? What’s wrong with Bill Nelson? Why not keep Sherrod Brown?’ Voters will wonder why you need more Senate Republicans if Coburn makes Durbin and others look reasonable.”

“This allows Democrats to pretend to be for something,” Norquist said. “The guy who is most damaged by Coburn is Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, whose job is to elect Republican senators in 2012. Coburn is stabbing Cornyn in the back. It just muddies the water about the differences between the parties.

“Coburn and the others can, with dignity, back off,” Norquist said. “All three have personally told me that they will not vote for tax increases, on the phone and in writing, that the only increases in revenues they would tolerate are ones driven by growth, not tax increases.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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