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November 28, 2012

It should be over for Grover

The Daily Star

---- — We don’t seem to encounter a whole lot of Grovers.

There was Grover Cleveland, remembered mostly for being the only president of the United States elected to terms that were not consecutive.

Then there was Grover Cleveland Alexander, a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher plagued by epilepsy and drunkenness. He has the distinction of being named after one president and being portrayed in a movie by another. Ronald Reagan played him in the truly terrible 1952 film, “The Winning Team.”

More recently, anyone who has ever seen “Sesame Street” would be familiar with the blue Muppet with a pink nose named Grover, who describes himself as “lovable, cute and furry.”

But there is another Grover, who, while furry enough with his closely cropped beard, is anything but lovable and cute when it comes to his stranglehold on Congress.

Grover Norquist is the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, an advocacy group dedicated to low taxes.

Norquist has succeeded in blackmailing virtually all the Republican Party members of Congress into signing a pledge never to raise taxes, under any circumstances. Certainly, many of the 95 percent of GOP senators and representatives who signed were inclined to make a commitment on their own not to raise taxes, but Norquist succeeded in codifying it with a pledge.

Locally, Rep. Chris Gibson signed the ill-conceived pledge while representing the 20th Congressional District, but said Tuesday that he does not feel bound to it in his new 19th District. Rep. Richard Hanna did not sign the pledge.

Those who might waver in signing Norquist’s piece of paper were and are threatened with facing a well-financed, Tea Party-supported opponent in a Republican primary dominated by a zealous minority of voters.

But there are welcome cracks showing in Norquist’s unsavory domination of Congress. The “fiscal cliff” is looming. With polls showing that voters desire raising taxes on the rich, some conservative Republicans are, in effect, telling Norquist where he can stick his pledge.

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said: “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told CBS: “I’m not obligated on the pledge.”

Other Republicans dissing Norquist include Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and New York Rep. Peter King. Even Eric Cantor, the highly partisan House majority leader, told MSNBC: “When I go to the constituents that have elected, re-elected me, it is not about that pledge. It is really about trying to solve problems.”

For his part, Norquist on Monday continued his threats to lawmakers. He said his group would “certainly highlight who has kept their commitment and who hasn’t.”

It’s long past time for Congress to finally tell Grover it’s all over for him.