We probably won't have the answer to that question until the results are in, but so far, I'd say the signs point to Norquist being right. Here's what he said this morning (video above):
What Speaker Boehner said before the election was that we're not raising marginal tax rates. What he said in his presentation [last week] was we're not raising marginal tax rates. He is in favor of more revenue from economic growth. I certainly agree with him on that.Charlie Rose pressed Norquist, saying that Boehner had actually put real tax increases on the table through tax reform, but Norquist said Rose had misinterpreted Boehner's position. "In his presentation, he's always referred to revenues from coming from growth that tax reform can give you," Norquist said.
So we have a situation where Norquist says John Boehner is merely taking the supply side position that lower tax rates combined with tax reform will generate economic growth which will in turn increase revenue while others (such as Charlie Rose) are saying Boehner has actually indicated a willingness to raise the effective tax rate, albeit in combination with tax reform.
As I said, we won't know which position is right until the final deal is done, but based on what Boehner has said so far, we've got some pretty strong clues. On Wednesday, he said:
For purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that begins to solve the problem, we're willing to accept new revenue, under the right conditions.That's a pretty clear endorsement of the Norquist position: that new revenue would come from economic growth unleashed by tax reform. But let's say you believe Boehner was just asking an honest question. In that case, here's what he said on Thursday:
What matters is where the increased revenue comes from, and what type of reform comes with it.
Does the increased revenue come from government taking a larger share of what the American people earn through higher tax rates?
Or does it come as the byproduct of a growing economy, energized by a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code, with fewer loopholes, and lower rates for all?
Raising taxes on small businesses will kill jobs in America. It is as simple as that.Once again, Boehner doesn't seem to be straying from the Norquist position on taxes.
But the clearest indication of where Boehner actually stands is that on Friday, he refused to say whether he would support extending the Obama tax cuts (by which I mean current tax rates on income below $250,000) without also extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. In fact, he made it clear that his top priority is extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy when they expire at the end of this year.
Given that tax reform would be nearly impossible to enact by the end of the year, the real question is whether or not House Republicans will hold the Obama tax cuts hostage in order to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The president has made it clear he will veto an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but has also called on Boehner to pass the Senate legislation extending current tax rates on middle-class Americans.
Boehner may ultimately agree to let that happen, but he's given no indication so far that he's going to do anything but hold middle-class tax cuts hostage. And as long as he's holding them hostage, there's no daylight between his position and Grover Norquist's position.
Let's not forget that if that's what ends up happening—that Boehner holds middle-class tax cuts hostage—he won't just be repudiating President Obama's judgment, he'll be repudiating the decision made by Americans last Tuesday. From the very start of this campaign, President Obama made it clear that his plan was to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire at the end of this year and then begin tax reform next year. On Tuesday, a majority of voters chose the president's vision. Moreover, they expanded the Democratic majority in the Senate and gave them more seats in the House. To claim that Republicans somehow won this election too is absurd. And if Boehner holds these middle-class cuts hostage, that's exactly what he'll be doing.