WASHINGTON — All but 13 of the 289 Republicans in the House and Senate have signed a pledge vowing to oppose tax increases. On Thursday, the author of that pledge met with some of them to help them understand exactly what it is they signed.
In the process, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist sparked a fresh barrage of criticism from Democrats who accuse him and his pledge of being one of the major impediments to a bipartisan debt-cutting deal. Norquist and Republicans defended the pledge, denied that he is hurting his party because he has become a political target, and said that Washington’s gridlock on the issue is not his fault.
The pledge has been “extremely helpful” to the Republican Party, Norquist told reporters after meeting privately with Republicans for about an hour, saying it has helped Republicans define a position that is popular with voters.
“They’re not going to raise taxes to pay for Obama-sized government,” Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform, said of Republicans. “They’re going to reduce Obama-sized government down to a size the American people will tolerate and are willing to pay for.”
Thursday’s session came at a time when some Republicans in Congress and elsewhere have been distancing themselves from Norquist’s pledge, saying all options need to be available if the two parties are to concoct a debt-reduction agreement. It also comes during an election-year fight over whether to extend expiring tax cuts for the rich at the end of this year, as Republicans want and President Barack Obama and Democrats oppose, and whether to overhaul the entire tax code.
People in the meeting said around 15 House GOP lawmakers and about 100 aides attended. The session focused on how to respond to questions about the pledge and traced its history and explained its meaning, participants said, adding that no lawmakers gave the impression that they wanted to back away from it.
“There was no discussion in there today about amending anything, wiggling around or anything,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.
With some in Congress beginning to concentrate on how the two parties might reach a budget agreement later this year, some Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have expressed a willingness to eliminate tax breaks and use some of the money that would produce to reduce deficits. That would violate a tenet of Norquist’s pledge, which says any money raised that way must be used to lower tax rates.
Early this month, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading national figure in the GOP, said he had never signed the pledge because he does not believe politicians should “outsource your principles and convictions to people.”
Norquist told reporters that those who have signed the pledge have made a “commitment to the American people” and should “focus on the commitment they made.”
The bearded Norquist, whose pledge has been around since 1986, has become a favorite whipping boy for Democrats though he is scarcely a household name. With even GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney having signed the pledge last year, Democrats see it as the symbol – and a cause – of the GOP’s refusal to back a deficit-cutting deal last summer as Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, tried reaching a compromise.
“They ought to be sitting down and working things out instead of holding court for him,” said Rep. Sander Levin, top Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, as he wandered past the committee hearing room where the meeting was being held. “Norquist is here to hold feet to the fire when what we need are open minds.”
Isn’t it great that corporations get to do pretty much anything they want? At least they have to drink this water, too:
Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation’s geology as an invisible dumping ground.
No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.
There are growing signs they were mistaken.
Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation’s drinking water.
In 2010, contaminants from such a well bubbled up in a west Los Angeles dog park. Within the past three years, similar fountains of oil and gas drilling waste have appeared in Oklahoma and Louisiana. In South Florida, 20 of the nation’s most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami’s drinking water.
There are more than 680,000 underground waste and injection wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking.
Federal officials and many geologists insist that the risks posed by all this dumping are minimal. Accidents are uncommon, they say, and groundwater reserves 2014 from which most Americans get their drinking water 2014 remain safe and far exceed any plausible threat posed by injecting toxic chemicals into the ground.
But in interviews, several key experts acknowledged that the idea that injection is safe rests on science that has not kept pace with reality, and on oversight that doesn’t always work.
“In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted,” said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA’s underground injection program in Washington. “A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.”
After saying that corporations can buy all the free speech they want, they go out of their way to hamper the voice of unions.
It’s always intrigued me that people who are very successful in one area believe that success validates their judgment in every other area. Classic case in point: Curt Schilling. And now, of course, he blames the government for his own lack of business sense.
Outsourcing. They were investing in companies that were offshoring their work and taking jobs from Americans. I can see why Mittens liked it, it made him filthy rich.
Yeah, I want that guy.