Mr. Norquist contends that every few years, several noisy Republicans say their support is squishy. Yet every time, he says proudly, the outcome is the same.This might not be Grover Norquist's first rodeo, but this is certainly a rodeo in which he's completely irrelevant. In fact, he's so irrelevant that not only could taxes could go up, they could go up with the cooperation of a majority of Republicans—and not a single one of them would need to violate his pledge.
“It’s been 22 years since a Republican voted for a tax increase in this town,” he said in a recent interview. “This is not my first rodeo.”
The reason for that is simple: If Congress does nothing, taxes go up at the end of the year. Unless Senate Democrats suddenly cave and agree to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and President Obama agrees to sign such an extension or a last-minute tax reform package miraculously materializes, starting on Jan. 1, 2013, Bush's tax cuts on income above $250,000 will vanish.
That means the real question for House Republicans is what they will do with the middle-class tax cuts they've been keeping hostage for years now. If they do nothing, tax rates go up for everybody on Jan. 1, 2013. If they pass the Senate's legislation extending middle-class tax cuts, then the only taxes that will be going up will be on income over $250,000.
The point is that taxes are going up under current law. Republicans don't have to vote for tax hikes because the tax hikes are baked into current law. If Republicans pass the Senate legislation, it will effectively settle the issue of Bush tax cuts for the wealthy because those tax cuts will finally be decoupled from the middle-class tax cuts. The hostage crisis will be over. But they won't actually be voting to raise taxes, which means they won't be violating Grover Norquist's pledge. And if that happens, we can all stop talking about Grover Norquist's power. Because if Republicans can let taxes go up without breaking his pledge, the best word to describe Norquist will be this: irrelevant.