The Corner

Norquist: Time to Force Obama’s Hand

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, says he supports the goal of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “contingency plan” to force President Obama to assume nearly all of the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling.

“Obama is playing politics,” Norquist tells National Review Online in an interview. “Republicans need to force him to do what the established press is not doing. He says he’s got a serious proposal. Could we see it written down please?”

McConnell’s plan would require the president to submit, in detail, a list of spending cuts of equal or greater value than the amount of debt increase he is requesting (about $2.5 trillion). “Obama wants to claim to the American people that he’s seriously willing to reduce spending and he’s not seriously taxing everybody and his brother,” Noquist says. “He’s lying. It’s time to end this fiction that he’s negotiating in good faith. They’ve got to force him to put in writing what the hell he thinks he’s doing.”

He blames the “established press” for allowing the president to get away with putting out a horrendous budget earlier this year, and allowing Senate Democrats to get away with having gone more than 800 days without even passing a budget. Members of the media and their Democratic cohorts, he says, have convinced themselves that Republicans will eventually cave and agree to raise taxes, as they did in 1982 and 1990. But they are perilously mistaken. “Most the people around in ’82 and ’90 are dead now!” he exclaims. “That’s a long time ago. Democrats think because MSNBC says we’ve got them on the ropes, that Republicans will fold and raise taxes. They’re nuts.”

The impetus to raise the debt ceiling has been with President Obama all along, Norquist argues, so where is the harm is simply forcing the issue? “He needs to do something to change the game,” says Norquist. “If nothing changes, Republicans win the Senate and keep the House in 2012.”

The key obstacle to deal on the debt limit, he says, is the president’s refusal to view overspending in Washington as a problem that needs fixing. On the contrary, Obama views his increased spending as the “signal accomplishment” of his presidency. “He’s like a kid caught shoplifting in a candy store, and we’re making him empty his pockets on the way out,” says Norquist. “Forcing him to give it all back now is like losing the next election already.”

McConnell’s plan, while it may be a “last resort” option,” is simply a recognition of the fact that significant budgetary changes are all but impossible as long as Obama is in the White House. Norquist says it is extremely important that Republicans don’t let the president off the hook by “putting their fingerprints on his misbehavior” and agreeing to a lousy bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling (particularly one that raises taxes). Doing so would give Obama a huge political victory that is completely undeserved.

“That would be the worst possible thing because the country would be robbed of a choice in 2012,” he says. “We’ve got time through 2012. The important thing is not to go into [the election] with blood on your hands.”

UPDATE: ATR clarifies that Norquist does not “endorse” the McConnell plan (or any specific debt limit plan), merely its objective to “force the president to put his spending plan in writing.”

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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