A generation ago U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., signed a pledge promising not to raise taxes when he first ran for Congress.
"I viewed it as a statement of political philosophy more than a promise," Kingston said of the anti-tax pledge that he signed at the request of anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.
But whether it's a promise or statement of philosophy, Kingston, who represents Southeast Georgia, has not voted to raise taxes once since he was elected to Congress in 1992. In fact, no Republican congressman or senator has voted to raise taxes since 1990.
A 1993 tax increase was passed in the House and Senate with no Republicans voting for it. It passed 218-216 in the House and 51-50 in the Senate with Vice President Al Gore casting the tie-breaking vote in his role as president of the Senate.
But the next few weeks may put that record to the test because of the fiscal cliff, a series of tax increases and spending cuts that are scheduled to automatically take effect in 2013. There is fear that the tax increases and spending cuts will send the country back into recession unless a deal is struck to modify them.
President Barack Obama has said any deal must allow the tax rate to go up on people making more than $250,000 a year, but most Republicans have said they will oppose any tax increases.
But a new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests the public is not with the Republicans. It shows the public supports higher taxes on households making more than $250,000, 65 percent to 31 percent.
Support is 84 percent to 14 percent among Democrats and 66 percent to 31 percent among independents, with Republicans opposed 53 percent to 41 percent.
Republicans will likely displease their base if they support tax increases and will also violate their anti-tax pledge. But Kingston said the power of Norquist, who gets credit for keeping Republican legislators in line, is overrated.
Republicans haven't raised taxes in a generation because they believe it's bad public policy, not because Norquist has some sort of power over them, Kingston said.
Alex Conant, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, echoed Kingston.
"Senator Rubio did sign the pledge in the past," Conant said. "But he opposes raising taxes because it's bad for the economy, not because of a pledge."
In an interview with Politico this week, Rubio argued that raising taxes on rich people would hurt job creation by harming small business owners. He also expressed doubt it would generate more revenue because lawyers and accountants working for people making over $250,000 would find a way to avoid paying taxes.
But if Obama has a tax increase that can actually help grow the economy, he'll consider it, Rubio said.
Kingston also said he'd consider a tax increase, but only if Obama got serious about spending cuts.
"The president got re-elected running on a platform of raising taxes for the wealthy," Kingston said. "We get that, and I think everything should be on the table."
But he and many other Republicans believe that federal spending is out of control, and the opposition party won't even think about allowing a tax increase until Obama proposes a plan that seriously cuts federal spending, Kingston said.
Rep. John Mica and Rep.-elect Ted Yoho, both of Florida, could not be reached for comment.
Reps. Cliff Stearns and Ander Crenshaw, also of Florida, emailed the Times-Union statements expressing opposition to tax increases and concern about federal spending but didn't specifically say they would oppose increases in all instances.
U.S. Rep.-elect Ron DeSantis of Florida declined to comment through a spokesman.
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