“The pledge is not to me. It is to the voters,” Grover Norquist, 60 Minutes, August 26, 2012

The reelection of President Obama, the expiring Bush tax rates, and the Americans for Tax Reform “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” have all put Republicans into a tough spot. Obama wants to raise taxes, the expiring tax rates have made tax hikes inevitable, and The Pledge has bound Republicans never to vote for a tax hike. As one senior aide to House Republican leader told The Wall Street Journal, “The president won and the tax cuts are ending, whether we like it or not. So we have to figure out how to deal with it.”

According to The Journal, “Several Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., have said in recent days higher tax revenue could be part of a deal. They have refused to consider higher tax rates, saying that new revenue should come instead from new limits on deductions and other tax breaks, suggesting one potential approach to a deal.”

But are new revenues from from closing deductions really any more or less of a violation of ATR’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge than higher rates? Not at all. If anything, an affirmative vote for higher revenues through closing loopholes would be a much clearer violation of the pledge than voting for a bill that cut taxes for the middle class. Here is the text of The Pledge:

I, _______________, pledge to the taxpayers of the _____ district of the state of__________, and to the American people that I will:
ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and
TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Voting for legislation that raised revenue by eliminating or reducing deductions or credits would be a clear violation of the ATR pledge. However, voting for legislation that cut taxes for 98 percent of Americans would not be.

True, Norquist and others at ATR have argued in the past that not voting to extend the Bush tax rates is the same is voting for higher taxes in the rich. But, as Norquist says all the time, the pledge is not between Grover and office holders. The pledge is between a candidate and the voters.

So the real question is, which vote would incumbent Republicans rather defend in a Republican primary? An affirmative vote for higher taxes? Or a vote to cut all Americans taxes by $3.7 trillion over the next ten years?