Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Popularity of Anti-Tax Pledge Ebbs for Gop Candidates Congress Hopefuls Say Its Limits Restrict Ability to Negotiate

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Popularity of Anti-Tax Pledge Ebbs for Gop Candidates Congress Hopefuls Say Its Limits Restrict Ability to Negotiate

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- In GOP activist circles, it is known simply as the pledge. Over the past 25 years, it has become the essential conservative credential for a whole generation of Republicans seeking elective office in a party defined by its implacable opposition to raising taxes.

Of the 242 Republicans serving in the U.S. House, all but six have signed the anti-tax pledge that has emerged as a key enforcement mechanism of Republican orthodoxy on taxes.

But now, an increasing number of Republicans running for Congress are declining to sign the pledge. It is a small sign that could signal a big shift in the GOP's politics on taxes amid spiraling national deficits.

Of the 25 candidates promoted this year by the National Republican Congressional Committee as "Young Guns" and "Contenders" - - the top rungs of a program highlighting promising candidates challenging Democrats or running in open seats -- at least a third have indicated that they do not plan to sign the Norquist pledge. Two of the seven candidates promoted by the NRCC as the "Young Gun Vanguard" -- candidates competing in open seats that are considered Republican-leaning -- have also declined to sign.

Authored by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, the pledge compels candidates to resist any effort to raise tax rates for individuals and businesses. They also pledge to oppose elimination of tax credits and deductions unless they are matched dollar-for-dollar with other tax cuts.

GOP candidates declining to sign generally indicate that they nevertheless oppose tax hikes. But some are chafing against the constraint on eliminating tax loopholes, believing that those restrictions limit Republicans' ability to negotiate seriously with Democrats on a deal to tackle the nation's mounting debt.

In Pennsylvania, state Rep. Scott Perry, R-York, recently won a Republican primary in a conservative U.S. House district with 54 percent of the vote in a field of seven over candidates who had signed the pledge.

"I just think it's imprudent to hem yourself in where you can't make a good agreement that overall supports the things you want to do," said Mr. Perry, who generally opposes tax increases. …

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