WASHINGTON (AP) - Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist is heading to Congress this week to tutor House Republicans on what they meant when they signed his pledge to oppose tax increases.
Thursday's private briefing for lawmakers and staff comes as President Barack Obama and Congress gear up for battle over whether to extend trillions in tax cuts that expire in January, and whether the entire tax code should be overhauled. It also comes at a time when some Republicans have distanced themselves from the pledge, saying it is too confining at a time of huge federal deficits.
Norquist and GOP congressional aides said the session had nothing to do with Republican criticisms.
"The left has made a concerted effort to attack the pledge and misrepresent it," Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said in an interview. He said some lawmakers have been getting "bizarre hypotheticals" in journalists' questions and in debates, and he said he wants to help people feel comfortable discussing the pledge's meaning.
Nearly every House and Senate Republican has signed the pledge, which promises to oppose efforts to raise tax rates and to use any elimination of deductions or credits to lower rates.
With election-year pressure intensifying over the upcoming tax battle, Democrats have been demanding that wealthy Americans be excluded from any extension of tax cuts and that new levies be part of any deficit-cutting package. GOP leaders have opposed those demands, though some Republicans have been saying new revenues should be considered as part of an overall compromise.
An invitation sent to Republicans by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who heads a group of House conservatives, said Norquist will explain "how the pledge should be communicated" and "what you need to know when answering questions about the pledge."
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