Just hours after the Washington Post editorial page reported that anti-tax activist Grover Norquist wouldn't consider letting the Bush tax cuts expire as breaking his tax pledge (“Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase"), Norquist said he opposes such a compromise in the current debt standoff.
"It wouldn't pass the laugh test to go to the American people and tell them you just allowed four trillion dollars in higher taxes by allowing the 2001, 2003 lower rates to lapse and tell people that's not a tax increase," he told MSNBC's Chris Jansing.
When Jansing pressed Norquist whether letting the Bush tax cuts expire would violate the pledge, he didn't directly answer the question -- but stressed that his organization would oppose the move.
"There are certain things you can do technically and not violate the pledge, but that the general public would clearly understand as a tax increase. So I can be clear: Americans for Tax Reform would oppose any effort to weaken, reduce, or not continue the 2001, 2003 Bush tax cuts.
Norquist added, "Clearly they need to continue, and not to continue them would be felt by the American people as a very dramatic tax increase. And the Republicans have made it clear that's off the table and we support that effort."
Bottom line: It's technically correct that letting the Bush tax cuts expire doesn't violate the pledge, which states that a member will "1) oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and 2) oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."
But Norquist also said Americans would still see it as a tax increase, and that's why his group would oppose it.
NBC's Lauren Selsky and Dax Tejera contributed to this report.