US Republicans Face Carbon Tax Debate

  • Date: 14/11/12
  • Andrew Restuccia, Politico

Don’t even think about supporting a carbon tax, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist told congressional Republicans on Tuesday.

Norquist blasted out a statement saying a carbon tax would almost certainly violate the pledge many Republicans took at his group’s behest not to raise taxes.

He was walking back comments he made Monday to National Journal, which quoted him as saying that if a carbon tax were paired with an income tax cut, “it’s possible you could structure something that wasn’t an increase and didn’t violate the pledge.”

In his statement Tuesday, Norquist said: “There is no conceivable way to add an energy or [value-added] tax to the burdens American taxpayers face that would not violate the pledge over time.”

He said it would take a constitutional amendment eliminating the income tax — which would need to clear a massive hurdle in Congress — for him to warm up to a carbon tax.

“If someone first passed and implemented a constitutional amendment with two-thirds of the House and Senate and three-fourths of the states concurring to forbid the restoration of the income tax, we might more safely consider passing a VAT or energy VAT. And then, it would be foolish and [an] economically destructive thing to do,” he said.

Also part of Tuesday’s statement: “The creation of any new tax such as a VAT or energy tax — even if originally passed with offsetting tax reductions elsewhere — would inevitably lead to higher taxes as two taxes would be at the disposal of politicians to increase taxes. Two smaller tapeworms are not an improvement over one big tapeworm. Tapeworms and taxes grow.”

Norquist’s comments are the latest signal that a carbon tax faces long odds to passage, even amid growing support for the proposal among economists, some conservatives and environmental groups. Proponents have called for a “tax swap” in which revenues from a carbon tax are used to offset cuts on other taxes as part of a deal to address the looming fiscal cliff.

POLITICO reported Friday that the issue has so far gained little traction on Capitol Hill despite a strong push by outside groups.

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