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Virginia Republicans Reconsider Norquist Pledge

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All but two Republican members of Congress from Virginia have signed a pledge to never raise taxes. The pledge was famously introduced by Grover Norquist, and has become all but gospel among Republicans. But some members of the GOP from Virginia are now moving away from the pledge.

Norquist has never been elected to public office, but he's viewed as a powerhouse in Washington. Only 13 Republicans in Congress have refused to sign his pledge to not raise taxes. In a speech earlier this year, Norquist reaffirmed his vision for the U.S. tax code.

"Our job is to say 'no' to tax increases, stop throwing money in the center of the table, put our foot on the air hose, and watch that pile of cash begin to decline," he says.

That vision is embodied in the pledge; those who deviate from it by supporting higher taxes will see conservative activists turn against them, opening individuals up to a primary challenge in their respective elections.

Thomas Mann, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, says Norquist's pledge has become the ticket for admission to today's Republican tent.

"He's not personally powerful, but his tax pledge has become the signature feature, I call it the Holy Grail of the contemporary Republican Party and keeps it from playing any constructive role in putting the country's finances in order.," says Mann.

But cracks are showing in Norquist's fortress. Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell (R) signed the pledge in 2010, but now he's distancing himself from it.

"My careful review of the facts has led me to this position which is, that the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge is not best if our objective is meaningful tax reform and to reconcile the difference between revenues and expenses," he says.

Rigell isn't alone. Virginia Republicans Frank Wolf and Rob Wittman have never signed the pledge. Wittman says he has no plans to.

"The only two pledges that I've taken is to uphold the Constitution and to my wife of 32 years, and those are all the ones I intend to take," he says.

Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes (R) has signed the pledge, but says he'll never say never.

"When I signed that piece of paper, it was for that term," says Forbes. "That's the way I view anytime you sign a document like that. I'm not saying that I would never raise taxes."

In the next debate over cutting the national debt, all eyes will be on Republicans, especially the eyes of Grover Norquist. And Norquist may not be too happy with what he sees from Virginia Republicans.

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