NBC Eager to See Republicans 'Peeling Off' From Tax Pledge, Pressures Rest of GOP to Do the Same

Talking to chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd on Monday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie enthusiastically touted: "...we've seen a few Republicans peeling off from a pledge they signed to Grover Norquist, who, of course, is a lobbyist, an anti-tax lobbyist, who's been very powerful among conservatives. Is that a significant move?"

Todd replied by urging the rest of the GOP to similarly abandon core conservative principles: "I'll be impressed when you start seeing House Republicans do it....where it looks like Republicans are softening, it's Senate Republicans. If this deal could be cut between the Senate Republicans and the White House, we wouldn't even be talking about this...the fiscal cliff wouldn't be an issue."

On Sunday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Mike Viqueira proclaimed: "It's a pledge almost all Republicans have signed, to oppose tax increases of any kind. Today, that once solid wall was showing cracks."

On Today, Todd proceeded to wring his hands over Republican primary voters putting pressure on House GOP members:

...these guys, they don't have to worry about general elections, they have to worry about primaries and that's the game here. And that's the problem for the White House, and frankly, for House Speaker John Boehner. He may want to cut a deal but he may not be able to have the votes because these guys might be on a primary suicide mission, some of these House Republicans, if they side with raising tax rates....they have to worry about conservative primary voters.


Here is a transcript of the November 26 exchange between Guthrie and Todd:

7:05AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Members of Congress are back at work this week with one big issue staring them in the face: how to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff? If they do not reach a deal, your taxes could rise and sharp spending cuts would go into effect as well, possibly triggering a recession. Chuck Todd is NBC's political director and chief White House correspondent. Chuck, good morning to you.

CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Savannah.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Heading for a Cliff...; Can President & Congress Come Together to Avoid Economic Crisis?]

GUTHRIE: So the goal here is to get a deal that reduces the deficit, and the battle lines have been pretty clear for a long time now. The President campaigned on rolling back the top tax rates for the highest earners and Republicans have argued that spending cuts are the way to get the deficit under control. Are we starting to see, though, now, a softening of those positions on both sides?

TODD: Well, here's what there's agreement on. Both sides, both parties agree that the wealthiest have to pay more, the question now, and the sticking point at this stage, is how do you go about making the wealthiest pay more? Do you do it by raising the tax rates? That's what President Obama wants to do. He wants to move the tax rates from 35%, where they are now, up to where they were during the Clinton years, at 39%. What Republicans are arguing is you don't have to do that. You can get all of the money, or some of the money that you want, by getting rid of loopholes, so doing full-fledged tax reform at some point next year, but don't raise the tax rates at all and somehow get rid of these loopholes. The White House says, "Hey, that math doesn't work."

GUTHRIE: And let me pick up on that because we've seen a few Republicans peeling off from a pledge they signed to Grover Norquist, who, of course, is a lobbyist, an anti-tax lobbyist, who's been very powerful among conservatives. Is that a significant move? When you start seeing senators like Lindsey Graham, Saxby Chambliss saying, "You know what? I'm not necessarily going to stick to that pledge if it means I don't get a deal."

TODD: Well, Savannah, I'll be impressed when you start seeing House Republicans do it. All of the – all of this stuff that we've been hearing, where it looks like Republicans are softening, it's Senate Republicans. If this deal could be cut between the Senate Republicans and the White House, we wouldn't even be talking about this, we wouldn't have a segment because the fiscal cliff wouldn't be an issue. This is about House Republicans, and these guys, they don't have to worry about general elections, they have to worry about primaries and that's the game here. And that's the problem for the White House, and frankly, for House Speaker John Boehner. He may want to cut a deal but he may not be able to have the votes because these guys might be on a primary suicide mission, some of these House Republicans, if they side with raising tax rates. And they raise taxes, they'll lose a primary, Savannah, and they don't have – there's no general election they have to worry about, they don't have to worry about swing voters, they have to worry about conservative primary voters.

GUTHRIE: Meantime, are Democrats signaling where they may be willing to compromise?

TODD: Well, the President has been willing to talk about Social Security and Medicare and put entitlements on the table. That's what a lot of Republicans say is their price for raising taxes. The problem the President has is many parts of his base, including some of those House Democrats that he might need in some sort of forged compromise, they're not crazy about doing this. They say, "Hey, we won. The mandate is to raise taxes. There's no mandate – there was no mandate from the voters to tinker with Social Security and tinker with Medicare." But at some point, the President's gonna put that on the table, and the question is, will his base let him do it?

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC