By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star
---- — COOPERSTOWN — More than a year after he took a pledge to refuse to support any tax increases, newly re-elected Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, confirmed Tuesday he is on a new path — one that does not include embracing conservative Grover Norquist's push for holding the line on taxes regardless of the consequences.
Gibson, fresh from an Election Day victory over Democrat Julian Schreibman during an election cycle that was overall bad news for Republicans, becomes the latest Republican to abandon the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" touted by Norquist. Gibson had signed the pledge last year.
Asked if his decision shows he has evolved to the point he will no longer assume the position of an inflexible naysayer against higher taxes, Gibson told The Daily Star, "I don't envision signing any pledges now because going forward I have a record that I'm proud to run on that's pro-growth."
Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, is the architect of an anti-tax pledge that gained the support of all but three Republicans elected to Congress two years ago, when the Tea Party was more fashionable than it is now.
The sharp-tongued Norquist, a champion of supply-side economics, once stated: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."
Gibson, speaking to The Daily Star from Washington, said he is proponent of a bipartisan budget proposal that he said promotes "pro-growth policies" and is the "best approach" for upstate New York. He said that plan, proposed by Reps. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, would cut the deficit while achieving tax reductions for individuals, small businesses and corporations.
In the aftermath of President Barack Obama's re-election, several prominent Republicans in Washington have abandoned the no-tax pledge pushed by Norquist, a guru of the conservative movement.
On Tuesday, Rep. Peter King, R-Long Island, one of the most conservative members of the New York congressional delegation who also abandoned the no-tax pledge, lashed out at Norquist as a "low life," after Norquist accused him of weaseling out of a commitment whose sanctity he equated with the congressman's marital vows.
Among the first to steer clear of the Norquist pledge was Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, who until the end of this year will represent the northern portion of Otsego County, territory that as of Jan. 1 will become part of the new 19th Congressional District that Gibson will have.
Hanna said he will not sign onto any pledges. "You swear an oath to the Constitution," he said. "That's enough."
Hanna said the public ought to respect the deliberations of those congressional members now reconsidering their former allegiance to the Norquist pledge.
"I know a lot of people are walking away from it," said Hanna. "They did what they did in the moment. I'm not sure anybody thought about the full ramifications of signing the pledge. They have the right to reflect on the decision and change their mind. They should have every right to say: 'I did it then and it was OK then but it's not OK now."
Michael Long, the chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, said congressmen such as Gibson who abandon their commitment to the pledge against raising taxes risk alienating the supporters who elected them to public office in the first place.
"It's not about Grover Norquist," Long said in a telephone interview. "This is a pledge to the taxpayers of the country. You are not going to solve the problems until you cut and cap the spending in this country, and cap the entitlements. We need to grow ourselves out of the deficit that we're in. You don't do that by taking away more money from people" through higher taxes.
Long said he was not threatening to yank his party's support of congressional representatives who are abandoning their support for the Norquist pledge when they have not yet voted to increase taxes.
"Let's see where we go," he said.