The Hypocritical Oath

| Thu Mar. 19, 2009 2:33 PM EDT

More than 200 representatives and senators in the 111th Congress have signed Americans for Tax Reform's Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a vow to oppose all tax increases. That put them in a sticky place when they voted Thursday on H.R. 1596, better known as the bill that levies a 90 percent tax on bonuses given out by bailed-out banks.

The bill passed the House overwhelmingly—328 to 93—so doesn't that mean a bunch of lawmakers violated their oaths to Grover Norquist's anti-tax group? Nope, not according to two press releases ATR sent out a few hours before the vote.

The first release notes ATR is "STRONGLY OPPOSED to...the Rangel-Pelosi bill to tax AIG bonuses in order to deflect blame from Secretary Geithner’s failed mismanagement of Treasury funds." But how could pledge-signers vote against the bill when popular ire toward AIG and other banks with taxpayer-subsidized bonuses is so high? Because, according to ATR's second press release, the bill is "illegal, unconstitutional" and "is not a tax bill so much as it is a politically-driven police action by the Congress. The Pledge is intended as a serious commitment by serious defenders of taxpayers."

In Washington, that's what we call spinning for the sake of political cover.

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