Lawmakers who signed the "No New Progress" pledge, the brainchild of Grover Norquist of the Americans for Tax Reform, promise to "oppose and vote against any and all efforts to make progress of any kind.""We need to hold our legislators accountable for their actions," said Norquist this week. "It's not good enough to say on the campaign trail that you're not going to get anything done once you get into office - legislators need to be willing to put pen to paper and promise to do everything in their power to bring progress to a grinding halt."
There has been some debate over whether signers of the pledge are obligated simply not to contribute to progress, or if they need to be actively impeding progress through their votes and actions.
"I'd go with No. 2," said Norquist.
A prime example is the recent debt ceiling battle. With the 11th hour quickly approaching, lack of congressional approval of the deal between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner could result in the nation defaulting on its debt, which in turn would result in hundreds of thousands of job losses, deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare, sky-high interest rates and a so-called "double-dip" recession.
"Now that's what I call progress!" said Norquist. "Er ... by which I mean, no progress."
Although only Republicans have signed the agreement as of yet, not all have rallied behind it. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), declined to sign the pledge and referred to its backers as "Tea Party Hobbits" on the Senate floor.
"They were once men. Great kings of men," McCain continued. "Then Sauron the deceiver gave to them nine rings of power. Blinded by their greed, they took them without question, one by one falling into darkness. Now they are slaves to his will. They are the Nazgul, Ringwraiths, neither living nor dead. At all times they feel the presence of the Ring, drawn to the power of the One. They will never stop hunting you."
Then there were three or four minutes of awkward silence, before one of McCain's aides led him back to his office to lie down.