The Rachel Maddow Show | May 18, 2012
>>> there's a kind of war going on in the republican party over the question, what do republicans care about more? reducing the deficit or cutting taxes. things two things are in conflict because in order to reduce deficit republicans need to make deals with democrats. in order to cut deals with democrats they'll have to put revenues on the table. those republicans who are solely concerned with taxes have a leader. they have a general, a powerful unelected enforcer who has achieved a mythological status. he is grover norquist .
>> since creating tax reform , he's been responsible more than anyone else for rewriting the dogma of the republican party .
>> republicans won't raise your taxes. we haven't had a republican vote for a income tax increase since 1990 .
>> this was your doing?
>> i helped.
>> reporter: it began with a simple idea of getting republicans to sign a note of taxpayer protection pledge promising their constituents they would never vote for anything that would make their taxes go up.
>> speaker gingrich's tax pledge back in 1998 .
>> reporter: once they sign the pledge, grover never forgets. the more signatures he's collected, the more his influence has grown.
>> i think to win a republican primary it is difficult to imagine somebody winning a primary without taking the pledge.
>> that was cbs steve kroft talking to grover back in november. since then dick luger face add primary challenger. his name was richard murdock. he was one of those republicans that refused to sign the pledge and he endorsed murdock. last week luger was defeated. he only endorsed him a week before the primary. his no-taxes pledge gets a public relations boost. republicans become more afraid of it. it becomes more powerful. that pledge says not only can you not raise the tax rate but even if you close a tax loophole, that money can't go to the deficit. it has to go back into a tax cut or else he will consider that a tax mike. for years and years he was an unchallenged force.ike. for years and years he was an unchallenged force.hike. for years and years he was an unchallenged force. arguably the most conservative republican in the senate broke rank.
>> if people's taxes go up, would it appear to be a violation of the pledge you sign. would well known americans this is is a group you signed the pledge with. the second piece of this is that you vow to oppose any net reduction or elimination and credits unless matched dollar for dollar reducing tax rates . if taxes go up in some capacity, would now not be in violation?
>> which pledge is most important? the pledge to uphold your oath to the constitution of the united states or a pledge from a special interest group who claims to speak for all american conservatives which they don't.
>> a lot of people thought he was crazy for launching this fight but he's not alone. in politico, a small but increasingly vocal group of republican freshman are rejecting the idea. other freshman members have been struggling with the pledge. you don't want to be the only house republican to break the pledge. you can be one of many who jump to make a deal. it seems that more and more republicans might be preparing themselves to make that jump down the road. joining us now is oklahoma republican senator. author of the debt bomb. a bold plan to stop washington from bankrupting america. thank you for being here.
>> good to be with you.
>> you're a conservative guy. what do they say about your attitude against the pledge?
>> it's a nonfactor. just some constructive criticism. i think it's overblown by the press. we agree that the government shouldn't grow. we want the lowest tax rates we can have. we don't want to raise taxes on anybody. simpson bowles had me and senator greg on it. we voted for reforming the tax code which would raise revenues. we had 33 senators vote to eliminate the ethanol blending tax credit . it's overblown. we want to foix the problems in the country. our problem with the grover tax pledge is he randomly picks what he decides is a tax increase. i would tell you that eliminating tax credits and tax gimmicks and loopholes is eliminating spending. it's not raising taxes .
>> i think this is an important point. the tax code has these things called tax expenditures . they give people money to help buy a house. they give oil companies money. they are bigger than medicare . they are huge. it's more than a trillion dollars according to tax policy center . alan greenspan says he should be considering spending. do you consider them spending.
>> i do.
>> one thing that can be hard to figure out given there's been many republicans who have signed the pledge is it is just then a negotiating position? you mention it behind closed doors . there have been to varying degrees willingness on the side of republicans to raise taxes above where they are now in part of a large deficit deal. if it's overblown, what should people take of the fact that so many republicans have signed it?
>> i'm not sure. i don't think indiana, grover had any bearing in indiana. most of it was about repealing the affordable care act , not about taxes. it was about not spending money that we didn't have on things we don't absolutely need. what i would say is the reason we're stuck on senator isn't grover . the reason we're stuck on center is we haven't heard from the administration what they're willing to give in terms of entitlement reform, saving medicare , saving social security and what can we do to reform the tax code so the revenues to the government come up. they are historically too low. most people agree with that. the point is what we have the is tremendous advantage. last week the flood snurinsurance bill that i held up. it's got a billion dollars worth of subsidies for home insurance for people second and vacation homes on the coast. hard working american factory workers and service workers pay and subsidize somebody's second vacation home . that's spending in the tax code . if you eliminate that subsidy, you're raising taxes .
>> you're a member of the fiscal commission. it's productive and came out with bills. when you and your fellow republicans get together with democrats behind closed doors , is there more agreement than people just watching what happens in public in washington?
>> by far. when we all get together and talk and the cameras aren't rolling and the press isn't there, everybody knows we'll have to do a lot of changes to medicare . everybody knows we'll have to reform social security we have to make social security sustainable in the long run. how do you get the mix of change and the entitlement programs and the reform and the tax code ? nobody said it shouldn't be progressive and how do we make sure someone on social security has enough money to survive if that's their own source of income? how do we do those things and where is the bargain? the rest of the world is not going to loan us the money. why don't we do it now rather than piddle around from the politics of today.
>> oklahoma senator and author of the debt bomb which is very good. you should take a look at it. coming up next, facebook, the haves