CBS's Hill to Norquist: Why Not 'Compromise' More on Taxes?

CBS's Erica Hill urged "conservative activist" Grover Norquist to influence the members of Congress who have signed his no tax hikes pledge to consider raising taxes during an interview on Monday's Early Show: "There's still not a lot getting done in Washington, even with some of the compromise. So why not push those people to maybe do a little bit more?"

Hill pressed the idea of compromise from the very start of her interview of Norquist. She first asked the Americans for Tax Reform leader, "As we look at Congress and the way the approval rating has continued to plummet...for a lot of people, this is a failure, the fact the super committee cannot come to some sort of agreement on what to cut here. To you, though, is it a success, in that your side, technically, that you're backing, or either side, didn't give in?"

When Norquist replied by highlighting the differences between the two parties on taxes and spending, the CBS anchor emphasized the need for an agreement in a her follow-up question: "So is there ever going to be a case where the two parties can agree?...I mean, this is a pretty bad financial situation for this country, and it's not getting any better...So could there ever be a situation where the sides could come together- both sides giving a little bit?"

Erica Hill, CBS News Anchor; & Grover Norquist, President, Americans For Tax Reform | NewsBusters.orgThe right-leaning activist answered by noting that there had been some compromise already: "What the Republicans and Obama agreed to in August was two-and-a-half trillion in less spending. So there's been a tremendous compromise. Republicans wanted to reduce Obama's debt by $6 trillion. They agreed- okay, we'll only do two-and-a-half trillion." Even with this, Hill hinted in her final question that conservatives were the ones that need to "maybe do a little bit more."

By contrast, the anchor tossed softballs at DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz during an October 6, 2011 interview on The Early Show, and failed to challenge her claim that "anyone" can see that the economy is improving "and now, we've begun to turn the corner."

Right before the interview began, correspondent Bill Plante, reporting on the Obama administration's reaction to the super committee's failure, stated that "it's safe to say that in the absence of a real debt deal, which, of course, they'd like to have, the administration couldn't be happier that this is failing, because they will try to blame it all on the Republicans going into the election year."

The full transcript of Erica Hill's interview of Grover Norquist, which began eight minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour of Monday's Early Show:

ERICA HILL: Many people believe the man most responsible for the deadlock in Washington is Grover Norquist. He's the lobbyist and conservative activist who managed to get nearly every Republican in Congress to sign the pledge- that is a pledge to oppose any and all new taxes. Steve Kroft asked Norquist about the hold he has over the GOP on last night's '60 Minutes.'

STEVE KROFT (from interview on CBS's "60 Minutes"): A lot of people think you're the most powerful man in Washington.

GROVER NORQUIST: The tax issue is the most powerful issue in American politics, going back to the [Boston] Tea Party. People say, oh, Grover Norquist has power. No, Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform focus on the tax issue. The tax issue is a powerful issue.

HILL (live): And Grover Norquist joins us this morning from Washington. Good to have you with us-

NORQUIST: Thank you-

HILL: In the American people's mind, as we look at Congress and the way the approval rating has continued to plummet, essentially, over the last few months, for a lot of people, this is a failure, the fact the super committee cannot come to some sort of agreement on what to cut here. To you, though, is it a success, in that your side, technically, that you're backing, or either side, didn't give in?

[CBS News Graphic: "Debt Deadlock: Anti-Tax Stalwart Norquist On Budget Impasse"]

NORQUIST: Well, two things: one, the goal of the super committee was to reduce spending 1.2 trillion [dollars]. If they couldn't agree on how to do it- the Democrats refused to come up with 1.2 trillion in spending cuts- you go to automatic spending cuts across the board. So taxpayers are protected- 1.2 trillion will be saved. What the Democrats wanted to do was raise taxes to pay for the $10 trillion in higher debt that Obama's spending over the last two years created. So we're trying to undo a spending mess. The only way to spend less is to spend less. The Democrats want to raise taxes to pay for Obama's larger government. The two parties don't agree.

HILL: So is there ever going to be a case where the two parties can agree? Is there any situation? I mean, this is a pretty bad financial situation for this country, and it's not getting any better, and without any compromise- any working together- it doesn't appear that's going to happen. So could there ever be a situation where the sides could come together- both sides giving a little bit?

NORQUIST: Well, that's already happened. Remember, the Republicans in the House of Representatives passed [Representative] Paul Ryan's budget ,which over the next ten years, reduces Obama's overspending by $6 trillion- $6 trillion in less spending. What the Republicans and Obama agreed to in August was two-and-a-half trillion in less spending. So there's been a tremendous compromise. Republicans wanted to reduce Obama's debt by $6 trillion. They agreed- okay, we'll only do two-and-a-half trillion. Now, the Democrats are trying to fight not to do all of the two and a half, but there's a big compromise because the Democrats want to spend more. The Republicans have brought that down a little bit, but not enough.

HILL: Not enough compromise. A couple of things that you talked with Steve Kroft about last night. As you said, and we just heard from you in that bite, the most powerful issue- and this is the most powerful issue in American politics. You also said at the end of the piece- and I'm quoting here- talking about how many people you've gotten to sign this pledge and how it's helped them- as you say, if they sign it and keep it, they win the primary, they win the general, they get to govern, and I've helped make all of this possible. If this is about governing- if this is about keeping those seats in Congress and pushing forward with this pledge, there's still not a lot getting done in Washington, even with some of the compromise. So why not push those people to maybe do a little bit more?


NORQUIST: Well, of course- look, the Democrats have spent a great deal of money. Bush spent too much, and the Democrats put it into hyper-drive, adding trillions in just a few years to the debt, things that used to take us decades or a hundred years to do. We need to bring that spending down. The Democrats want to get the Republicans to raise taxes to pay for their higher spending. The Republican Party has said, over the last 20 years, we're not going to raise taxes, and we need to focus on spending. And so, that's the difference between the two parties. If you want higher taxes and more spending, vote for the Democrats. If you want less spending and lower taxes, you vote for the Republicans.

It's very clear they're going in different directions, and the taxpayer protection pledge allows voters to know who a candidate is- will he or she put in writing that they won't raise your taxes? Only three Democrats have made that commitment in writing. Almost all of the Republicans have nationally, but also 13 governors have made that- have taken that pledge, and 1,300 state legislators. So anyone who's running for office, ask them if they've taken the pledge, and if you want higher taxes, don't vote for the pledge takers. If you want lower taxes, vote for someone who's taken the pledge.

HILL: Grover Norquist, thanks for your time this morning.

NORQUIST: Sure.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center