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One man holds up US debt solution

The super-committee on deficit reduction is likely to give up on Monday night triggering automatic cuts. And the man many are already blaming is Grover Norquist, an anti-tax conservative.

world Updated: Nov 22, 2011 00:22 IST
Yashwant Raj

The super-committee on deficit reduction is likely to give up on Monday night triggering automatic cuts. And the man many are already blaming is Grover Norquist, an anti-tax conservative.

Much is riding on the super-committee and fears of it coming up blank are driving stocks down in the US and around the world, along with the instability in Europe. Markets opened in the negative in the US on Monday. The bipartisan 12-member committee technically has not yet come up with a formula to cut deficit by $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years. But it’s deadlocked over what is being called the last divide: raising taxes.

Democrats want the rich to be taxed more, while Republicans are against it, prevented many believe by a pledge many of them taken — administered and monitored rigorously by Norquist.

On a talk show on Sunday, Patty Murray, Democratic co-chair of the super-committee, blamed this pledge as the main stumbling block. Norquist’s name, she said has “come up in meetings time and time again”.

“They’re giving speeches that we should compromise on our deficit, but never do they compromise on Grover Norquist,” said majority leader Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat. Norquist heads a DC-based NGO which, its website said, he founded in 1985 on Ronald Reagan’s request. The full extent of his influence is unravelling only now.

“The pledge is not to me,” he told an interviewer in a TV show on Sunday. “It’s to the voters. An elected official who says, ‘I think I wanna break my pledge,’ he doesn’t look at me and say that. He looks at his voters and says. That’s why some of them look at their voters, don’t wanna say that, and they go, “Well, how ‘bout you? Could you release me from my pledge?” One senator has called him a “megalomaniac, ego maniac”.