In the past week or two, there's been crowing on the left about anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist's slipping influence, as a small—emphasis on small—number of congressional Republicans murmur that they might accept a tax/spending deal that includes a hike in rates for the wealthy. For years, Norquist has been the whip of the conservative movement, leaning on GOP candidates and legislators to commit to and stand by a no-tax pledge and acting as prosecutor, judge, and jury whenever any Republican considered any initiative that might possibly be characterized as a tax increase. But as President Barack Obama bargains (toughly) with House Speaker John Boehner as the fiscal cliff (or bump) nears, Norquist, his cachet waning or not, is not Boehner's problem. He is not the force that is preventing the speaker from striking a deal with an electorally energized Obama. The true obstacle is Boehner's own comrades: those scores of tea partiers in the House Republican caucus who detest compromise—especially with the president. As Boehner tries to forge an accord with Obama, he has to watch carefully his colleagues and his back.
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