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Norquist: 'No conceivable way' carbon tax matches pledge
By Andrew Restuccia
11/13/12 12:09 PM EST
Don't even think about supporting a carbon tax, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist told congressional Republicans on Tuesday.
Norquist blasted out a statement saying a carbon tax would almost certainly violate the pledge many Republicans took at his group's behest not to raise taxes.
He was walking back comments he had made Monday to National Journal, in which the publication quoted him as saying that if a carbon tax were paired with an income tax cut, "it's possible you could structure something that wasn't an increase and didn't violate the pledge."
In his Tuesday statement, Norquist said: "There is no conceivable way to add an energy or [value-added] tax to the burdens American taxpayers face that would not violate the pledge over time."
He said it would take a constitutional amendment eliminating the income tax - which would need to clear a massive hurdle in Congress - for him to warm up to a carbon tax.
"If someone first passed and implemented a constitutional amendment with two-thirds of the House and Senate and three-fourths of the states concurring to forbid the restoration of the income tax, we might more safely consider passing a VAT or energy VAT. And then it would be foolish and economically destructive thing to do," he said.
Also part of Tuesday's statement: "The creation of any new tax such as a VAT or energy tax - even if originally passed with offsetting tax reductions elsewhere - would inevitably lead to higher taxes as two taxes would be at the disposal of politicians to increase taxes. Two smaller tapeworms are not an improvement over one big tapeworm. Tapeworms and taxes grow."
Norquist's comments are the latest signal that a carbon tax faces long odds to passage, even amid growing support for the proposal among economists, some conservatives and environmental groups. Proponents have called for a "tax swap" in which revenues from a carbon tax are used to offset cuts on other taxes as part of deal to address the looming fiscal cliff.
POLITICO reported Friday that the issue has so far gained little traction on Capitol Hill, despite a strong push by outside groups.
Initial reports about Norquist's Monday statement stirred excitement among some environmentalists. The liberal website ThinkProgress had described his remarks as a "bombshell" that could remove the "biggest obstacle" to getting a carbon tax enacted.
But the comments also prompted the American Energy Alliance - a group backed by the Koch brothers - to give Norquist its "dim bulb award" in its daily newsletter Tuesday.
"Grover, just butch it up and oppose this lousy idea directly," the group wrote. "This word-smithing is giving us all headaches."
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