Bishop: Congressional gridlock on minds of voters

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop says he understands the frustration many Americans feel toward Congress these days.

Bishop, D-Ga., was in Macon on Tuesday getting reacquainted with Bibb County voters, with much of the county moving back into the 2nd Congressional District after 16 years.

Bishop said the No. 1 thing he hears from voters is that they’re fed up with Congress’ inability to get major legislation passed because of partisan politics. As a Blue Dog Democrat, Bishop said he’s a fiscal conservative who has been willing to reach across the aisle and work with like-minded Republicans on issues.

He noted that he stood in unison with Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, as well as with U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., agreeing that the sequestration measure that’s part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 would have dire consequences for the state if triggered.

Under the act, the federal government is required to reduce the budget by $1.2 trillion by Jan. 2, 2013, or face automatic cuts to both the military and non-military budgets.

Bishop agrees with many of Congress’ critics.

“I vote for the benefit of the people I represent,” he said. “I want to do the right thing. People are frustrated, and rightly so. ... They’re concerned that Congress has not (fulfilled) its responsibilities as it should have.”

Bishop said he supports good ideas, regardless of whether they come from Democrats or Republicans.

However, he noted that most members of Congress seem determined to intentionally cause gridlock, especially if it means Republicans can put a halt to President Barack Obama’s policies.

He pointed out that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said as much in a 2010 interview with the National Journal magazine, when McConnell was quoted as saying, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

“There are a group of people who have come in and are gumming up the works,” Bishop said. “They think that if Obama is unsuccessful, it will change to the point where they can throw people out (of office) and then take power. That’s an evil strategy, but it’s one that’s working. An organization that has served us for hundreds of years is now dysfunctional. There’s no way we can succeed if we don’t accept compromise.”

Bishop said his main focus as a congressman has been on rural affairs and maintaining the military bases in his district.

When Bishop was first elected to Congress in 1992 after serving as a state senator, Macon was part of the 2nd Congressional District and it stayed that way until 1996, when redistricting moved the city into the 8th Congressional District before redistricting earlier this year returned most of the city back into the 2nd.

A small portion of north Macon and Bibb County will stay in the 8th District.

“Macon is coming back into the district,” he said. “I was delighted when the Legislature, in its wisdom, saw fit to put Macon back into (the district).”

Bishop said Macon and the other Middle Georgia areas in the 2nd District fit in well with Columbus and Albany, the other two main population centers in the district. All three cities are near military bases and include rural land.

During his time in the state Legislature and later in Congress, Bishop touted his membership on agricultural committees as well as being the senior Democrat in the House’s Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. Because he also serves on the House Committee on Appropriations, Bishop said he’s in a good position to serve the needs of Georgia’s rural population as well as the military installations -- Robins Air Force Base, Fort Benning and the Marine Corps Logistics Base -- in the district.

“(Macon, Columbus and Albany) are tied together with rural communities,” Bishop said. “(The cities) are used as commerce centers. Agriculture is the largest segment of the Georgia economy.”

Bishop will face Republican challenger John House in the Nov. 6 election.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.