Grover Norquist: George W. Bush Said He Would Have Backed Cliff Deal

Amy Harder

Former President George W. Bush told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that he would have supported the fiscal-cliff deal that McConnell struck with Vice President Joe Biden late last year, antitax advocate Grover Norquist told National Journal Daily on Monday.

“Bush said, ‘Hey, I would have cut that deal back [in 2001]. I would have been happy with that back then,’ ” said Norquist, citing a phone conversation he said occurred between McConnell and Bush shortly after Congress passed the fiscal-cliff deal this year.

McConnell’s office would not verify that the phone call occurred. “We don’t confirm Senator McConnell’s private conversations,” said spokesman John Ashbrook.

Bush’s reported endorsement of the McConnell-Biden fiscal-cliff deal is significant because the legislation made permanent most of the temporary tax cuts Bush initiated as president in 2001.

The deal, which Congress passed on New Year’s Day, made permanent the tax cuts for everyone but the wealthiest households (those that make more than $450,000 a year) and individuals (those who make more than $400,000).

Shortly after the legislation passed, the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that the measure made permanent 82 percent of Bush’s tax cuts. In fact, some publications reported that the real winner in the fiscal-cliff deal was President Obama’s predecessor.

According to Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, the influential conservative group that has influenced Republicans on opposing tax increases, Bush told McConnell that if it had been 2001, he would have cut a deal that made permanent the tax cuts on everyone below the $450,000 and $400,000 levels and raised taxes on the richest.

“Making permanent 85 percent of something you only have temporarily is a good deal,” Norquist said. “Instead, what [the Bush administration] got was eight temporary years.”