A hard-hitting Friday morning press call with Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss yielded a wide range of topics, offering insight into the senator’s thoughts on the fiscal cliff and the road forward.
Both Chambliss and fellow Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson supported the fiscal cliff deal that’s cleared both chambers while polarizing Republican circles; every Georgia Republican serving in the House voted against the package.
“We kept 99 percent of the tax cuts from the 2001 package,” stated the Moultrie native in defense of his vote. “Ronald Reagan used to say that it was a good day if you got 80 percent of what you wanted done…and they’re permanent. We couldn’t get a permanent deal done when Bush was in the White House and Republicans controlled both the House and Senate.”
However, Chambliss expressed unhappiness with aspects of the deal, and reiterated his preference of spending cuts to tax increases, claiming that revenues were “off the table” following the deal.
No punches were pulled about looming debt ceiling and continuing resolution deadlines, with the assertion that the president should “strap on your chinstrap very tight because this junkyard dog is going to address spending cuts and entitlement reform in the debt ceiling debate.”
President Obama has indicated that he has no interest in debating whether or not to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, set to be reached in the next two months. Chambliss also attacked the president for what he perceived as lack of engagement with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell throughout the fiscal cliff debate.
When asked about guarantees from conservative groups, such as the Tea Party Express, that he would face a primary challenge because of complaints surrounding a lack of spending cuts, Chambliss stated that tea partiers were his friends and that he maintained an “ongoing dialogue” with the various groups in Georgia.
Though no further mention was made of a potential primary fight, speculation has previously swirled around Reps. Tom Price and Paul Broun, as well as former Secretary of State Karen Handel, as likely foes for the two-term senator. A December Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll showed that some 43 percent of Georgia primary voters would prefer an alternative ‘more conservative’ than Chambliss as their nominee in 2014.
Other topics discussed included both gun control and the Farm Bill. Chambliss stated that, in the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting, “simply coming out and saying we’re going to have a massive gun control bill that solves all the problems isn’t going to do it.” He called for a national dialogue, and specifically pointed to mental illness, not additional gun control, as points of emphasis.
As for the Farm Bill, Chambliss used its 9-month extension, included in the fiscal cliff deal, as further justification for his ‘yes’ vote. He also offered praise for the return of Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran to the ranking member spot on the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, indicating that it would balance out regional interests and help southern farmers when the body takes up passing a new Farm Bill this year.