Senate Democrats

In Floor Speech, Schumer Tells House GOP: Norquist Has Given Permission To Let Millionaire Tax Breaks Expire In Debt Deal

In Major Development, Anti-Tax Crusader Says Letting Bush Tax Breaks Lapse Does Not Count As Tax Hike

Schumer: This Is A Coded Message From Norquist To GOP Hardliners Who Are Opposing Any Deal That Includes Revenues That They Should Relent In Order To Avert Default

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) today called on House Republicans to heed conservative activist Grover Norquist, who today gave his permission for Republicans to let millionaire tax breaks expire without violating his anti-tax pledge.

In a major development, Norquist—the head of Americans for Tax Reform—told the Washington Post today that his group would not consider it a tax increase if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to lapse after 2012.

Schumer said this acknowledgment by Norquist is a coded message to House GOP hard-liners—who have rejected any debt reduction deal that includes revenues—that they should stand down. Schumer urged House Republicans to heed this message and relent in their deep opposition to all form of revenues.

A copy of Schumer’s remarks, as delivered, appear below. You can watch the remarks here:


U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

Remarks on U.S. Senate Floor

July 21, 2011

Mr. President, as we spend the day debating the Republicans’ plan to “Cut, Cap and Kill Medicare,” a plan that is dead on arrival in the Senate, it has become obvious what the true question of the day is.

That question, Mr. President, is this: Will we, as a nation, allow ourselves to be driven into default and financial calamity by a small group of extreme right-wing ideologues in the House GOP?   It is becoming increasingly clear that this group of ideologues have grabbed the reins, and are refusing to let go, no matter who tries to pry their fingers off. It is clear this small group of narrow ideologically driven congressmen is the one thing standing in the way of raising the debt ceiling.

We are now 11 days away from defaulting on our debt, and for the last few months this small group, far outside the mainstream, has contributed nothing to efforts to reach a compromise.

The House GOP has rejected every form of compromise, from the Simpson-Bowles plan to the President’s $4 trillion grand bargain to the McConnell fallback plan to, as of yesterday, the Gang of Six framework. Instead, they have offered dangerous schemes, like the “Cut, Cap, and Kill Medicare” plan that passed the House yesterday.

Their quote-unquote plan would wreak havoc on our country’s seniors and the middle class. It’s not a serious proposal, it will never pass the Senate, and it is a waste of time.

So, while reasonable people are trying to come to a compromise, the House GOP is becoming increasingly isolated. Yesterday, for example, my colleague Senator John McCain warned the House GOP that Americans don’t want the government to shutdown, and urged them to learn the lessons of 1995. Also, close to a third of Senate Republicans have signed on to a plan that would combine major spending cuts with new revenues – a balanced approach the House GOP has sworn off.

And every day more voters are abandoning them.  As the LA Times reported this morning, “Republican resistance to compromise has turned a significant bloc of voters against them… frustrated members of their own leadership as well as establishment GOP figures.”

So the House GOP is being criticized from every corner.

And then, today, we have what must be the most significant departure to date from the House GOP’s Fantasy-land. In a major development, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist told the Washington Post that letting the Bush tax cuts lapse would not constitute a tax hike.

This is a development the significance of which should not be underestimated.  It is a recognition from Norquist that the House Republicans are increasingly isolated, and have painted themselves into a corner. Norquist is trying to signal to the House GOP that their no-compromise position is untenable, deteriorating, and bad for their party and the country.

The House GOP is on an iceberg that is melting into the ocean, and even Grover Norquist is offering them a boat. The question is, for their own good and for the country’s good, will they take it?

I urge my colleagues in the House GOP to accept this life line – it’s time to leave default-denier island, and come back to reality.  The House GOP has painted itself into a corner even to the right of Grover Norquist.

Grover Norquist, the hall monitor when it comes to enforcing the Republican party’s anti-tax pledge, has given House Republicans a hall pass. They should use it.

This is a coded message from one of the truest believers in the Republican Party that it’s time for conservatives to step back from the brink.

Norquist has given us a potential path forward. If we decoupled the Bush tax cuts by only extending them for the middle class, and not for the millionaires and billionaires, we could have a deal that includes revenues but doesn’t violate the anti-tax pledge. Everyone wins.

This decoupling strategy is what the President and Speaker Boehner were entertaining earlier in the context of a grand bargain. But Leader Cantor and other right-wing hard-liners forced the Speaker to walk away because they feared violating the anti-tax pledge. But now a deal on decoupling has Norquist’s permission, if not his blessing. We should revisit it.

It’s time to recognize the quickest, most effective and economically sound way to reduce our deficit and debt is balanced approach that both cuts spending and raises revenue. A plan that mirrors every other successful deficit reduction deal in our nation’s history. A plan along the lines of the ones negotiated by presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.

I hope my colleagues in the House GOP see the danger of the path they are going down and change course, before they take the entire country down with them.

Thank you, Mr. President.