Yesterday I noted that a number of Republicans are disowning Grover Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge and the anti-government activist's pretension to power. Tom Lawrence promptly got on the horn to South Dakota's primary pledge adherents, Senator John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem, to see whether they still stand with Norquist.

Unlike their headlining colleagues, Thune and Noem struggle to give a straight answer:

"The president has yet to put forward a proposal on the fiscal cliff regarding both taxes and entitlement reform, so at this point it is hard to speculate about the specific components of any final deal," [Senator Thune] said in an email response to Daily Republic questions.

"Clearly, the proposal that the president and Democrats in Congress have reiterated lacks any details about how to address the true driver of our growing national debt and that’s entitlement spending. Simply increasing taxes on small businesses is the last thing that we should be doing in a struggling economy" [Tom Lawrence, "Thune, Noem Stick with Norquist No-Tax Pledge," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2012.11.27].

Norquist's pledge is about never increasing tax rates. If Senator Thune still believes in the pledge he signed, his answer to Lawrence should be simple: no, no matter what other specific components the coming fiscal plan will include. Senator Thune doesn't say no or never. He grumbles about a lack of specifics from the other guys, but he doesn't say what specifics he proposes. He says "simply raising taxes on small businesses is the last thing we should be doing," but he doesn't say he won't do that last thing.

Remarkably, Noem answers more directly than Thune:

I am opposed to raising tax rates but I am open to a solution that brings in additional revenues by simplifying the tax code and closing loopholes [Rep. Kristi Noem, quoted by Lawrence, 2012.11.27].

Simplifying the tax code and closing loopholes? Uh oh, Kristi—check the pledge! You pledged to "oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates." You're saying you are open to reducing or eliminating deductions and credits. And when you speak of bringing in additional revenues, you're saying you aren't looking to match those code changes dollar for dollar with rate decreases.

Thune is saying he won't simply increase taxes. Noem is saying she's open to increasing taxes. Neither is giving the simple no Grover Norquist demands.

And if Thune and Noem break that promise in the interest of rational fiscal policy, I can live with that.