WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, Thursday proposed raising taxes on wealthy Americans despite signing a campaign pledge to oppose any new tax increases.
Crawford plans to introduce legislation on Monday that would include a 5 percent surtax on income above $1 million as part of a broader deficit-reduction plan that would include a balanced budget amendment.
As a candidate, Crawford signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge that is championed by Grover Norquist-led Americans for Tax Reform.
“He’s having an impure thought on a tax increase,” Norquist said. “But (House Speaker John) Boehner is never going to give him the opportunity to vote for that tax increase.”
Norquist said Crawford hasn’t technically violated the pledge because no vote has been cast.
As to Crawford’s proposed compromise, Norquist said it is doomed to failure. Democrats would never back a meaningful balanced budget amendment and Republicans would not support the tax hike in exchange, he said.
“There is a better chance of an asteroid landing in your backyard than this bill coming up,” he said.
During a television interview on his hometown ABC affiliate KAIT-TV, Crawford said his bill would serve as a compromise for a gridlocked Congress to address the nation’s $15.5 trillion debt.
“The balanced budget amendment is supported by roughly 75 percent of Americans. The millionaire’s tax, roughly 65 percent of Americans, so you’ve got one side saying, ‘Let’s tax millionaires,’ the other saying, ‘Let’s do a balanced budget amendment.’ So my bill basically brings the two together, and says ‘Let’s compromise,’ ” Crawford said.
The proposal drew harsh criticism from other conservatives opposed to tax increases. Crawford estimated his 5 percent surtax on income above $1 million would raise $40 billion annually.
“Obviously, our organization disagrees with Congressman Crawford’s position,” said Teresa Oelke, Arkansas State Director of Americans for Prosperity. “The problem in Washington is not a taxing problem it is a spending problem.”
Americans for Prosperity has contacted Crawford’s office Thursday to let him know they do not think his proposal is a good idea, Oelke said. The fiscally conservative group has 63,000 members in Arkansas.
Oelke said she doubted Crawford’s deal would garner much support because Democratic leaders have shown no interest in a balanced budget amendment. Instead, she said, Crawford should continue to support House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in his effort to reduce the deficit through spending cuts.
Daniel Horowitz at the conservative Madison Project blasted Crawford as a “sleeper progressive” and chastised the Tea Party for ignoring his voting record.
“Crawford scored a failing 58 percent from Heritage Action and 53 percent from the Club for Growth. But guess what? Crawford has no primary challengers, and the filing deadline expired at the beginning of the month. We are stuck with a progressive OWS congressman from a conservative state for another 2 years,” Horowitz wrote.
Dan Mitchell, a tax reform expert at the Cato Institute, skewered the proposal.
“America’s fiscal problem is a government that is far too big. You don’t solve the problem with more taxes, just as you don’t cure alcoholics by giving them more to drink,” Mitchell wrote on his blog. “Congressman Crawford, though, wants to give away the keys to a liquor store without even asking for an insincere commitment for future sobriety in exchange. Indeed, the Congressman’s naiveté is so impressive that he is the first winner of the Charlie Brown Award for Vapidness and Gullibility.”
Crawford said that most major accomplishments in Washington happen when both parties work together. That often means each side accepts something they don’t necessarily like.
“I hope Republicans consider passing a balanced budget amendment important enough to allow asking millionaires to pay a little more on their income over $1 million, and I hope Democrats will recognize this good-faith effort and stop blocking a balanced budget amendment that will fundamentally alter the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars,” Crawford said.
Crawford is not facing a primary challenge this year but he will face a Democratic challenger in the general election this November. Several Democrats have filed as candidates.
Rep. Clark Hall, a Marvell Democrat, issued a press release claiming that Crawford was “flip-flopping on tax policy.”
“Rick Crawford thinks taking all sides of an issue and holding one’s finger up to the political wind will help his election chances. In reality, it’s political cowardice, and the only compromise Rick Crawford has shown willingness for is a compromise of his principles,” Hall said.