The 113th Congress is coming to a close -- as is the career of the senior senator from Georgia, the man with the unforgettable first name that is instantly recognizable. When someone says, “Saxby,” we all know who is being talked about. For almost 20 years, Sen. Saxby Chambliss has been serving the people of Georgia in either the U.S. House or Senate. Some of the first sentences in his farewell speech on the floor of the 155-year-old Senate Chamber give a clue as to why he’s so beloved.
After saying, “We as Americans are so fortunate to live in the greatest country in the world. A country where the American dream is still alive and well. A country where, in spite of all our problems, we are the envy of the free world. A country where a preacher’s kid from rural southern Georgia can rise to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and then to the U.S. Senate.”
Did Chambliss then thank the high and mighty he’s had the privilege to rub elbows with over the past two decades? No, he then said, “To the entire Capitol Hill workforce, from those who clean our offices, to those who change the light bulbs, provide our food, maintain our subways, keep us safe and secure and to all those in between, I say thank you.”
Chambliss has always maintained the touch of the common man or woman. He’s reached across the aisle and worked with the Gang of Six in an era when Elephants and Donkeys are not expected to speak to each other, much less work together. That stance has had its political consequences, but Chambliss believed the American people, particularly the Georgians he represented, wanted solutions, not political gamesmanship.
Chambliss leaves at a time of great peril. As his service on the Senate Intelligence Committee comes to an end, he knows all the threats facing our country. While we believe his successor, Sen.-elect David Perdue is a fine and capable man, he will not be able to fill Chambliss’ shoes immediately. Perdue will, we are sure, have Chambliss on speed dial. And he also has Chambliss’ great friend and now Georgia’s senior senator, Johnny Isakson, to lean on. Isakson, in his remarks, said, “Georgia has had some great senators. Richard Russell, really the master of the Senate; Zell Miller, the former governor of Georgia, a friend of mine and mentor to our state; and Sam Nunn, one of the finest in national defense and foreign policy our state ever offered. Saxby will be the fourth on the Mount Rushmore of Georgia senators who served Georgia with distinction and with class.”
Saxby wouldn’t be Saxby if he didn’t drop a few words of wisdom on his colleagues as he departs. He told them they should restore Senate rules that require 60 votes on all issues including judges and nominees. And he said, “it is imperative that the issue of the debt of this country be addressed. ... Cutting spending alone, i.e. sequestration, is not the solution. Raising taxes is not the solution. ... It will take a combination of spending reduction, entitlement reform and tax reform to stimulate more revenue.”
Then Chambliss challenged his fellow lawmakers: “Hard and tough votes will have to be taken, but that is why we get elected to the United States Senate. The world is waiting for America to lead on this issue, and if we do, the U.S. economy will respond in a very robust way.”
Will history prove Chambliss deserving of being on the Mount Rushmore of Georgia senators as Isakson predicts? Time will tell, but we wouldn’t bet against him being added to the state’s short list of outstanding legislators.