WASHINGTON -- Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) called anti-tax activist Grover Norquist a "lowlife" Tuesday for accusing him of weaseling out of a no-tax pledge that Norquist compared to King's marriage vows to his wife.

"I really don't care about Grover Norquist. It was a cheap thing to do," King said. "He's being a lowlife."

King made the comment as he and other Republicans seek flexibility in the high-stakes negotiations over the so-called "fiscal cliff" of across-the-board tax rate hikes and $1.2 billion in automatic spending cuts if Congress doesn't act by the end of this year.

King and nearly all Republicans have signed a pledge sponsored by Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform to "oppose and vote against tax increases," but now face the reality that Congress may have to raise rates to make a deal with Democrats.

On "Meet the Press" Sunday, King said he's opposed to raising taxes, but that the pledge is in effect only for the session of Congress in which members signed on to it. King said he signed the pledge in 1995 and 1996, when President Bill Clinton sought to raise taxes.

"A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress," King said.

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"For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed a . . . declaration of war against Japan. I'm not going to attack Japan today," he said.

"The world has changed. And the economic situation is different," King said.

Norquist shot back at King on CNN on Monday night.

"The pledge is not for life, but everybody who signed the pledge, including Peter King who tried to weasel out of it, shame on him as the New York Sun said today," Norquist said in a reference to an editorial in the online newspaper on Monday.

"I hope his wife understands the commitments last a little longer than two years or something," Norquist added.

King and his wife, Rosemary, have been married since 1967.

"I've never spoken a word to Grover Norquist," King said Tuesday.

"He has no argument to make," King added, "and, in fact, the pledge says nothing about being forever."