Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

There has been much fanfare about Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss’s (GA) break from Washington Lobbyist Grover Norquist. On a local television station, Chambliss spoke of breaking with Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes under any situation, saying, “I care too much about my country. I care a lot more about it than I do Grover Norquist.”

Many progressives have been celebrating Chambliss’s rebuke of Norquist. While Norquist is indeed a powerful lobbyist who should not have so much influence over the Republican Party, progressives should not be fooled by Chambliss’s rhetoric. The senator is not breaking from Norquist because he wants to raise taxes on the wealthy or big corporations. Rather, he’s doing it because it will make it easier to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Here’s why. For more than a year, Chambliss has been involved with a group of senators who support the Bowles-Simpson plan to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits while lowering the corporate tax rate. This Bowles-Simpson plan closes a few token tax loopholes, and also reduces the popular mortgage interest deduction. Norquist is opposed to closing even the tiny loopholes that the Bowles-Simpson plan closes, so he staunchly opposes the plan altogether — which also means opposing Chambliss.

Chambliss is willing to deal with closing small loopholes in the tax code in order to get to the wider goals of the Bowles-Simpson plan: cutting Social Security benefits by raising the retirement age, cutting Medicare benefits by capping overall spending, and dramatically lowering corporate tax rates.

The Senator is likely trying to curry favor with Democrats in order to pass such a plan. Publicly denouncing Norquist is one way to do that. Some in the press have suggested that his feud with Norquist …