Grover Norquist demands that Republicans hold the line on taxes. He was winning, until the defections began.
Just a few months back, Grover Norquist was routinely being called "the most powerful man in Washington" -- or even America. But now the Americans for Tax Reform impresario seems to be in one of the tighter spots of his storied career as a campaigner for "starving the beast." As fiscal-cliff negotiations continue, with President Obama and Democrats holding a strong hand, more and more Republicans have announced their willingness to break the Norquist-sponsored pledge not to raise taxes that many have signed.
While there were several high-profile defections this weekend, the strife between ATR and elected GOP officials has been progressing in slow motion for months. Here's a timeline:
November 3, 2011: Setting the tone for the year ahead, Speaker John Boehner shruged off a question about Norquist's influence in the GOP caucus. "Our focus here is on jobs," Boehner said. "We're doing anything we can to get our economy moving again and get people back to work. It's not often I'm asked about some random person in America."
May 27, 2012: Professional maverick and former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, co-chair of the president's debt-reduction commission, kicked the door open on CNN with characteristic panache. "For heaven's sake, you have Grover Norquist wandering the earth in his white robes saying that if you raise taxes one penny, he'll defeat you," he said. "He can't murder you. He can't burn your house. The only thing he can do to you, as an elected official, is defeat you for reelection. And if that means more to you than your country when we need patriots to come out in a situation when we're in extremity, you shouldn't even be in Congress."