Norquist: Republicans won't really break the ATR tax pledge

Grover Norquist seems a lot more optimistic than most conservatives this month in relation to Republican unity on the fiscal cliff. He tells CNN’s Soledad O’Brien that he doesn’t believe that any signatories to the Americans for Tax Reform pledge will violate their commitment to vote against tax increases — not even those who disavowed Norquist over the weekend. Norquist specifically mentions Lindsey Graham, whom he says so heavily qualified his offer to vote for tax increases that it amounted to an argument against them:

“”No pledge taker has voted for a tax increase,” he said on CNN’s “Starting Point. “Even [Sen.] Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.] would support higher taxes ‘if.’ … He lists this incredible list of reforms and entitlements that the Democrats would never give.”

The ATR Taxpayer Protection Pledge has come under intense scrutiny over the last week as the White House and congressional leaders discuss a deficit-reduction deal meant to prevent tax hikes and spending cuts due at the end of the year that are known as the “fiscal cliff.”

President Obama is demanding that Republicans agree to raise taxes on the wealthy in exchange for spending cuts and entitlement reforms, and several Republicans have suggested a willingness to move on taxes.

Norquist, however, insisted Monday that Graham and Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.) as well as Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) have not changed their positions on the tax pledge. He also warned his organization would “highlight” any Republican lawmaker who breaks the pledge.

I agree with Norquist that these negotiations should take place openly. I’m not sure that that would accelerate a solution, but at least we would be able to hold everyone accountable for their actions. The better option, though, would be to follow normal procedure by having both the House and the Senate pass actual budgets, and then reconcile them in a conference committee. That’s how the system is supposed to work, and it avoids all of this attention-grabbing brinksmanship … and most of that process would take place in front of C-SPAN cameras, too, although perhaps it wouldn’t be as relatively exciting as the fiscal cliff negotiations now would be.

Is Norquist’s optimism justified?  We’ll almost certainly see proposals to raise taxes in the Senate, if not in the House.  Will ATR signatories vote for such a package if it contains significant reform elements?  Take the poll: