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Our contempt for Grover Norquist’s no-new-taxes pledge is no secret, and it seems that at least one member of Congress is willing to come out and admit he shares the feeling. Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry signed the no-new-taxes pledge in 2004, but now says he regrets the move.

He says, “A while back, I had notified the organization that I had taken that pledge when I ran for office and upheld that my first term in office but realized that this type of pledge can constrain creative policy thinking, so I asked not to be associated with it any longer.”

Ouch.  Poor Grover!

Responding to Fortenberry’s snub, a spokesperson from Norquist’s group bristled, “One does not promise to be pro-life for two years, or pro-Second Amendment for one year. One is pro-life, pro-Second Amendment or pro-taxpayer as long as one is in office. Or not.”

This pathological inflexibility defines the pledge mentality and hurts our democracy. It’s chilling that even when legislators abandon the pledge after recognizing it for the ideological straightjacket it is, they are never fully released from it.  Isn’t that how cults work?

Completely taking tax increases off the table is no way to govern.  Pledges thwart the important debates and conversations that make our political system work, the current Washington gridlock offering a case in point. Rep. Fortenberry is setting an example for his GOP colleagues, going so far as to say Warren Buffett might even be right about taxing millionaires.  We’ll see if his stance helps open up our debates.

Pledging to spending cuts as the only budget balancing tool is like agreeing to eat a bowl of spaghetti with only a knife; it doesn’t work and it makes you look foolish.

Photos via Steve Rhodes & Republican Conference via Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0