Freshman Republican congressman Chris Gibson of New York’s Hudson Valley is a former U.S. Army officer. Normally, you’d expect straight talk and a direct answer from a guy like that. But when Representative Gibson was asked just weeks after winning reelection whether he meant to stand by the Americans for Tax Reform pledge against any net tax increase he resorted to evasive maneuvers that would get a new Army recruit busted by his drill sergeant.
Representative Gibson now says he signed his pledge in 2010 when he was a candidate for Congress. But the pledge was made to the people of New York’s 20th congressional district. Since then, the new Census mandated a redrawing of the district lines which included changing the number of the district Gibson was in. So his office now claims: “Congressman Gibson doesn’t plan to re-sign it for the 19th Congressional District, which he now represents (the pledge is to your constituents of a numbered district).”
This comical maneuver should make Representative Gibson a laughing-stock. What if the New York legislature had kept his district number the same? Would he then be bound by it?
About half of his new constituents were also in his old 20th district. Doesn’t his pledge to them still hold?
The technical loophole that Gibson claims to have found doesn’t even hold up. The ATR pledge, which all but six House Republicans had signed in the run-up to this November’s election is addressed “to the taxpayers of the ____ district,” with candidates expected to fill in the blank.
But the next line says the pledge is also made “to the American people.” Grover Norquist of ATR says the pledge was worded in that way to account for the fact that district numbers would change. “One would hope Representative Gibson would treat his constituents with more respect than he is showing,” Norquist told me.
For now, Gibson is sticking by his ridiculous excuse, using it as wiggle room to “consider all comprehensive packages brought forward as a result of bipartisan negotiations.” In other words, his constituents may not be able to trust his word on the pledge he took, but they can count on the fact that he is now a potential vote for just about any tax hike a budget deal could contain.