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Norquist pledge: Are GOP tax rebels start of a trend or just talk? (+video)

Norquist pledge, which calls for lawmakers to oppose new taxes, has another defector: Republican Sen. Bob Corker. But key players in 'fiscal cliff' negotiations have yet to join ranks of such GOP rebels.

By Staff writer / November 26, 2012

Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, shown heading into a Nov. 13 hearing on Capitol Hill, is the latest Republican to publicly disavow the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which has been party orthodoxy for the past 20 years.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File

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In recent days some big-name congressional Republicans have said they won’t be bound by past pledges to not raise taxes. They’re rejecting this aspect of GOP orthodoxy to help strike a deal on the nation’s “fiscal cliff” problem, they say.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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Monitor correspondent Liz Marlantes discusses why Democrats have the upper hand over the GOP when it comes to 'fiscal cliff' negotiations.

The latest lawmaker to bolt the longtime antitax party line is Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, who said on Monday he’d be flexible about raising tax rates and capping income-tax deductions in return for reform of America’s huge entitlement spending programs.

Senator Corker, like virtually all other US GOP officeholders, once vowed to oppose and vote against all tax increases by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge of antitax activist Grover Norquist. But on "CBS This Morning," he told host Charlie Rose he wouldn’t let this past position stand in the way of solving today’s fiscal problems.

“I’m not obligated on the pledge ... the only thing I’m honoring is the oath that I take when I’m sworn in this January,” said Corker.

Corker thus joins Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Republican Rep. Peter King of New York in saying that adherence to the Norquist pledge is outdated. Are they the harbinger of a mass defection that would make it much easier for party leaders to strike a deal with the White House?

Well, anything’s possible in politics. But we don’t see this as a game-changing development, at least not yet.

First, the folks we’re talking about here aren’t important players in terms of fiscal cliff negotiations. Remember, the Senate is controlled by Democrats, so what GOP senators think is much less important than what top House Republicans think. True, Representative King is a committee chairman, but it’s the Homeland Security Committee, and he’ll have to step down in the next Congress due to party chairmanship limits. (House Speaker John Boehner has spoken vaguely of accepting revenue increases, but hasn’t detailed what that means.)

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