No doubt U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, expects Grover Norquist, the self-appointed enforcer of tax increase prevention, to come gunning for him when he runs for re-election in 2014.
Last week, Chambliss took a statesman's approach to the federal government's financial mess -- he backed off the Norquist oath to never vote to raise taxes.
"I care more about this country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," Chambliss told an Atlanta TV station last week. "If we do it his way, then we'll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that."
Norquist, in an interview Monday with CNN, quipped that GOP lawmakers who have backed away from the oath or who have refused to take it were discussing "impure thoughts" about tax increases.
The fact is, the U.S. is in deep debt to the tune of $16 trillion, and it's adding $1 trillion in red ink every year. The majority of the problem, we believe, is too much spending, but the gap can't be completely closed by cuts. Look at how antsy everyone is over the across-the-board cuts that are set to hit Jan. 3 under Congress's self-inflicted meat-cleaver approach known as sequestration.
Revenue increases will be needed as well, though Congress should look in every nook and cranny for money before it considers imposing tax hikes on Americans. Not a one of us wants to see one additional dime coming out of our paychecks, especially if every other avenue has not first been explored.
But drawing a line in the sand by stating absolutely no tax increases will make the decisions tougher, just as it would if liberals refused to include spending cuts in the negotiations. We expect the best solution will be one in which both sides are unhappy but able to find something they -- and we -- can live with.
Chambliss's decision on the Norquist oath isn't surprising. While his detractors have painted him as an ideologue -- and we believe he takes seriously conservative values -- he also is a lawmaker who has reached across the aisle when he thought it was in the best interest of the nation. He's been a leading member of bipartisan efforts to address energy -- a plan that would have included both increased production and conservation -- and the fiscal crisis that looms bigger and bigger.
"What we've got to do is put everything out on the table, put our hard, partisan feelings aside, and we've got to get serious about this," Chambliss said during an appearance in Albany back in 2011. "It's not an issue that's been totally created by this administration or the previous administration; it's an issue that's been created over a period of years and will be a period of years before we get out of it."
Will it leave Chambliss vulnerable to political attacks if he runs for a third term in 2014? Likely so. That's the peril of doing what you think is right rather than what you think will get you more easily re-elected.
It's the type of attitude we need a lot more of in Washington.