Republican uber-activist Grover Norquist has been able to wield influence in Republican politics pretty easily in recent years. As we discussed a month ago, Republican candidates, especially those running for Congress, are well aware of the expectation that they sign "the pledge" -- a promise to Norquist that they will not support raising any tax on anyone by any amount for any reason at any time.
It's been remarkably successful for quite a while, but in 2012, Norquist's influence appears to be waning. High-profile Republicans -- including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) -- have questioned the pledge, and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has openly feuded with the conservative activist. Candidates who were supposed to sign the pledge aren't.
[Norquist] came to the ornate House Ways and Means Committee room Thursday to school House Republicans on the no-new-taxes pledge 236 members of the conference have signed.
The dramatic appearance comes just as Congress is preparing for the biggest tax overhaul in 26 years and as a limited but growing number of leading and rank-and-file Republicans have disavowed the pledge.
And how many of the 242 House Republicans showed up for Norquist's in-person reminder? According to The Hill, "at most 20 members" showed up. That's probably not the turnout he was hoping for.
The good news for Norquist is that he's single-handedly come up with a simple obstacle that makes most policymaking in Washington impossible. The bad news for Norquist is, while his far-right party largely appears to be sticking with him, his influence isn't as strong as it was.
As Brian Beutler explained this morning, "more and more Republicans are publicly breaking ranks."
Indeed, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) commented on this yesterday: "I understand that Mr. Norquist is going to come up here and he'll have a conversation about [the pledge]. I've been around the political process for a long time. I've never voted to raise taxes. But we've got a big job to do. I'm not interested in raising taxes. But they can discuss whether loophole closings are tax increases -- I hope they resolve it all actually."
For those keeping score, that paragraph featured Boehner conspicuously using the word "but" twice.
Put it this way: if Norquist wasn't at least a little concerned, he wouldn't have been on the Hill yesterday, personally lobbying lawmakers to do what he demands they do.