Chambliss And Isakson Gain Clout With Seniority

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

There was a time when being a Georgian in D.C. meant something.  The names of Russell, Talmadge,and Nunn had enough political gravitas behind them to change a debate in D.C.  In the United States Senate, seniority is currency, and these gentlemen banked plenty.  Russell served 38 years, Talmadge 24, and Nunn 25.

Beginning with Republican Senator Mack Mattingly’s 1980 election, Georgia sent a series of short timers to D.C.   Mattingly lost to Wyche Fowler who lost to Paul Coverdell.  Coverdell won re-election but died an untimely death soon after.  Zell Miller finished out the term of Coverdell but chose not to seek re-election.  Upon Sam Nunn’s retirement, Max Cleland served one term before being defeated by Saxby Chambliss.

So why the history lesson?  Senators Chambliss and Isakson are the first two Georgia Senators to serve simultaneously beyond their first term since Jimmy Carter was President.  As these two are gaining seniority, Georgia is gaining clout.

Roll Call, the Washington political news outlet, reported yesterday that Isakson is likely to be tapped for a coveted spot on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Social Security, Medicare, and many issues of taxation.  Given the
current fiscal policy debates regarding deficits and debt, it’s where the action will be.

Chambliss, with two additional years over Isakson in seniority, was recently promoted to Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and would likely be the committee chairman if Republicans are able to take control of the chamber during the 2012 elections.  Chambliss also has the added cachet of being one of House Speaker John Boehner’s best friends, positioning him as a man who can get deals done between the House and Senate.

Both men also have a penchant for working across party lines to craft deals within the Senate. Chambliss has currently taken point with a “Gang of Six” to craft a long term budget solution which will forge a plan to cut spending, but also may increase revenues to the treasury.  This, and past involvements with similar groups on immigration reform and energy independence, occasionally earn both Senators the ire of the far right, with occasional grumbles of a primary challenge coming from the more inflexible partisans.

Isakson, however, was able to generate one of the highest margins of victory by statewide candidates in November’s elections, also avoiding primary opposition.  This is significant, as 2010 was a year which saw some establishment Republican Senators like Bob Bennett of Utah defeated in primary challenges, and other establishment candidates like Florida Governor Charlie Crist defeated by Marco Rubio for Florida’s open Senate seat.

Isakson, to his credit, worked the TEA Party portion of the Republican base actively, if not somewhat quietly.  Rather than hiding in DC or among “safe” Republican groups, Isakson attended many TEA Party meetings, often unannounced, and addressed criticisms of his time in DC head on.  He was able to turn detractors into supporters, and returned to DC with a relatively united base despite an anti-incumbency mood.

Chambliss will not stand for re-election until 2014.  After needing a runoff to defeat Democratic challenger Jim Martin in 2008 – a Democratic wave year – he is also actively courting and seeking to mend fences with portions of the Republican base that
were less than enthusiastic about his candidacy last time around.

Yet, it will remain to be seen how working to solve long term structural problems with America’s tax system and entitlement programs sits with both TEA Party groups who want no new taxes or revenue streams, and a larger cross section of voters who don’t want changes to current entitlement programs.  Politically, it’s not a desirable situation.  But it’s one that does require leadership, and to exert that leadership, it helps to have clout.


  1. slyram says:

    “Both men also have a penchant for working across party lines to craft deals within the Senate.”

    Bottle that and send it to the House side.

  2. What do Americans get in return for senators with seniority? Clout? Pork? Yawn.

    Anyway, for better or worse, I predict Rep. Price will run against Chambliss next time.

      • Goldwater Conservative says:

        Price running against Chambliss? What a laugh. As inconvenient as it may be to do your due diligence in staying informed about congressional politics and the state of GA…Price will not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. The only way GA congressmen are able to maintain their anti-earmark rhetoric is because 1) you, American Delight, do not really know what an earmark is and 2) Price and his cronies have Isakson and Chambliss do all of their pork barreling for them.

        “Clout? Pork? Yawn.” Typical right-winger. You just hate democracy.

        • seenbetrdayz says:

          Believe me, nothing kills democracies republics more efficiently than financial irresponsibility. So, you have to question who the real haters are.

          • Goldwater Conservative says:

            “Believe me, nothing kills democracies republics more efficiently than financial irresponsibility. So, you have to question who the real haters are.”

            I will not believe you. You have a stupid picture as your id and I can not take you seriously on serious matters.

            Based on what data? Oh yeah…none.

            Fortunately this type of thing has been looked at since the development of a more rigorous scientific methods. Guess what has killed nearly every republic, democracy, or variants of each in the history of mankind. Invasion and aristocracy (see below). This happens to the very reason why Rome suspended democracy in times of war. For 2000 years tiny little republics, confederated not united, were easily toppled by foreign invaders while legislators and counselors debated war or did not sufficiently fund the government and military. NOT ONCE did they fade into nonexistence because of deficits or over-taxation. The issue has never been about too much money…it was usually because of too little money. Even there, however, we do not find a causal link between the variables of interest…many of the republics, and even the roman empire, simply stretched their sphere of influence too far.

            Remember a this very important idea: when you cite old tidbits from 200+ years ago, written by such apotheosized figures such as Jefferson or Franklin, they were dealing with extremely incomplete information. Actually, not only that, but methods of scientific inquiry and investigation were hardly in their infancy yet. Just because they said something does not make it so…and the literature we are all most familiar with from these men were mostly advertisements for independence, ratification of the Constitution, and campaign ads. Furthermore, when Franklin said, “a republic, if you can keep it” he was not talking about anything contemporary “conservatives” would think of. You people parrot out whatever the punditry on the right wing blathers about. Franklin was talking about the natural tendency of humans to transform republics into aristocracies. For further reading on this particular subject I would direct you to:

            Manin, Bernard. 1997. Principles of Representative Government. Cambridge University Press. New York, NY.

            It is peer reviewed and written by an accomplished and recognized academic.

            Also, democracy in ancient Greece did not function the way nearly every American envisions it to have happened. They used a lottery (which is being shown to provide better outcomes than most democratic theorists have anticipated) and not some form of universal direct democratic engagement.

    • While not carved in stone, I think this is more likely than most people think. This is a conversation we need to have after redistricting though. Then predictions can be much more accurate.

      Now opposition in the Lt. Governor’s primary is a near-certainty. The question is, who?

      • KD_fiscal conservative says:

        I second that notion.

        debbie, your type of complete ignorance is EXACTLY why no one whats to take leadership in Congress anymore. They would rather pander to the morons and take symbolic stances, so I applaud both of our senators for being some of the few to do so. Also, here is a little prophecy, I guess these posts aren’t deleted , so you can come back in 3 years and know that AT LEAST one person(probably more), predicted: The TPers will be largely irrelevant, membership will dwindle, they will not be able to sway elections and their little hissy fits will be ineffective

        • debbie0040 says:

          KD, you are an arrogant, elitist, egotistical jerk that can not handle it when people disagree with them. I can assure you that three years from now, the TP will still be relevant and still around. Our membership is growing now. People like you are what is wrong with the GOP and make no mistake within a few years, either people like you will be in the minority in the GOP or you will see a third party rise to prominence..

          Sen. Chambliss is not a conservative. Just look at his record on farm subsidies for one.

          I have heard two or three names that keep surfacing and not one is a tea party activist.

        • Three Jack says:

          kd, please back up your statement, “I applaud both of our senators for being some of the few to do so (take leadership)”. i know that clarence shows leadership whenever ag spending needs to be increased. and isakson does so when it comes time to provide homebuyers with redistributed incentives. but i haven’t seen either step up as paul ryan did in the house to put forth a budget built on politically unpopular solutions.

          as for the tea party, i agree with you that it’s overall influence will decrease if people like debbie (tpp) and amy (tpx) continue to weigh in on specific races or legislation. if they would stick with being an issue oriented group sans endorsements, they have a real chance to remain not only relevant, but highly influential over the coming years.

          • KD_fiscal conservative says:

            There are a whole number of instances I can think over over the years, but for one, Saxby took a huge chance(politically speaking) to even work with the Dems, and formed the only bipartisan deficit reduction group in Congress. They may or may not present the a plan that is favorable for all, but the point is even being part of that group was impressive, considering was/is the target of partically every talk show’er, and the TPer for trying to lead.

            The president released his pathetic excuse of a partisan budget, and the House GOPers passed their little resolution, both were fairly popular with their respective “bases” and neither have a chance in hell of being signed into law. So his group has a lot of potential, and the few details they did release sounded pretty good…so yeah, I would consider that leadership.

            • Mama_grizzly says:

              Sen. Shamebliss loves to work with the Democrats-Remember the group he was part of that pushed amnesty for illegals under W?

              He will be very wise not to seek re-election and just retire. I have heard Karen Handel’s name mentioned among several others as primary competition for Shamebliss..

              • Goldwater Conservative says:

                Wow…you are a racist, mama (I know this because you refer to undocumented immigrants as illegals). You know…Reagan supported amnesty. Or did they not teach that in your home school?

                He would be wise to seek reelection…because he will win. I suppose you people are hearing the names from other people not in the fray…because Price and Handel are only interested in consolidating power as well. They could really care less about you.

      • GC,

        Before you launch that prediction, you might want to wait and see the new Congressional District lines.

        AND, Tom Price’s name keeps coming up in conversations about a US Senate primary.

        • Goldwater Conservative says:

          For one, Price is not being moved out of his district…like the GOP did to Barrow. Two, there it is very difficult to make that area democratic. Three, the RNSC has an incumbent endorsement rule (meaning Price can kiss his national fundraising goodbye if he challenges a sitting US Senator of the GOP).

          It is not happening.

          • I never said he would be moved out of his district. He doesn’t have to be moved out of his district for his district to be altered significantly.

            Chambliss would probably NOT receive national Republican money in a contested GOP primary.

            GC, what you don’t know about Republicans is amazingly large.

            • KD_fiscal conservative says:

              Sorry to say Ken, but Price’s district will be protected and remain a R stronghold. The GA-Gen. Assembly legislators aren’t going to smug a long time fellow partisan like that. As far as Price running in the senate primary, I guess he still has a few years to decide, but he would have to give up his seat in the House…so I would think he will decide against it.

    • Three Jack says:

      bad link — supposed to be a quote after clarence ‘clout’ chambliss helped push through the farm bill and override of president bush’s veto — ““This is a tremendous victory for all Georgians from the producers who grow the food we eat, to those seeking assistance to feed their families,” said Sen. Chambliss. “Our goal was to take the most successful components of the 2002 farm bill and incorporate input from producers across the country to improve current law, and we did just that. This farm bill strengthens our nation’s food security, protects the livelihood of our producers and provides investments in nutrition, conservation and energy. Americans all over the country deserve a new farm bill and we have written a bipartisan and fiscally responsible plan that merits support of the entire Congress.”

      bill added $10b additional funds for ‘nutritional programs’, i.e. food stamps.

      • Goldwater Conservative says:

        No…nutritional programs. In America we do not punish the children of the indigent.

        • Three Jack says:

          right gc, we punish taxpayers by forcing us to pay for the illegitimate children of irresponsible freeloaders who have the children as a means of income.

          • Rick Day says:

            I’d rather spend my tax money on feeding children (whether their parents had the formality of a wedding or not) than on Wall Street Bailouts or DU ammo for our ‘security’.

            Dude, you got some f’ed up priorities “Mister Taxpayer”. Just how much tax DO you pay? I am in the top 5% of income earners. Do you hear me complaining about feeding starving kids when I pony up over 50k a year in taxes and fees?

            Sir, we do NOT punish the children of ANYBODY if they need a hand up. We are Americans. This is how we act. If you don’t understand that, then go talk to an American.

            Humanity. Get some.

            • Three Jack says:

              rd, reality, face it. if you as one of the top 5% suffer from a guilt trip over your annual income, then by all means setup a charitable organization and dump it all on those less fortunate than yourself. but don’t get all high and mighty about how much you pay in taxes as if that is a badge of honor while questioning my motives for desiring to keep more of what i earn.

              being american is not defined by how much one pays in taxes, at least not in normal circles. when you gather with the other elitists in the top 5% club, do you guys compare w2’s to determine who is more american?

              • Goldwater Conservative says:

                Maybe we should…but that is undemocratic. There is nothing wrong with elitism. I do not like the idea of allowing uneducated and prejudiced people like Three Jack to vote…but it is right.

                I know you conservatives hate equality…but we are guaranteed a few types of equality by our constitution. Equality of opportunity (not practiced), political equality (though this is not practiced) and equality of outcome (though this is not practiced either).

                What makes you think your tax dollars go to paying for welfare programs? You pay so little in taxes that you should just pretend your money goes to funding the programs you do support…whether you are aware of them or not (and I am certain you are unaware of most).

                I did not support the war in Iraq…so I just pretended my tax dollars (actually, nobodies does) were spent elsewhere. You should do the same. After all, you can not say that what you “earn” is not in part the result of an advanced infrastructure in which you maintain your standard of living based upon the input of everyone else in the past, presently and in the future.

                • Three Jack says:

                  gc, show me the part of the constitution that guarantees equality of outcome.

                  you relish your role as an ahole, so i won’t even bother responding to your unsubstantiated judgement of my education level. suffice to say i disagree with you on most things other than your admission of being an ahole.

      • KD_fiscal conservative says:

        Wow, are we still having this discussion. Look up what % of fed spending was to “feed lazy people”(ie foodstamps). I think that will clear up a lot of misconceptions.

  3. Rick Day says:

    Seniority does not make a person an expert in anything. Before 1974 when J.I.became a career Dolist, er, politician, he sold homes on commission. Since then all he knows is how to run elections. And this makes him qualified to lord over trillions of tax dollars in social services?

    Chambliss? Hard to tell. I think he was mostly a G.O.B. lawyer for farmers before becoming a career Dolist, er, politician. Since then all he knows is how to run elections. And this makes him qualified to run the watchdog agency over a secret covert arm of the US government?

    One word: Term Limits.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      I think the seniority system is a load of bunk. Do we have equal representation if some senators have more “clout” than others? I’d support term limits if it meant everyone who goes to Congress must conduct business as equals in the eyes of government.

  4. saltycracker says:

    Sorry, the tone of the article of intoxication with longevity in office brings out the cynical side.
    There is no evidence that longevity in office reduces the role & cost of government in our lives but it might get us a disproportional piece of the money pie, aka, we be winners.
    Both sides love other people’s money.

    So the idea is to keep on reelecting the incumbent to get Georgia a bigger slice of the debt pie ?
    We measure their success on how much is redistributed to Georgia, so for Republicans it is business/special interest “incentitives” and for the Democrats it is “fair” redistribution to those not so fortunate. Same game different winners, burdened taxpayers. Some day we’ll have to share the pain and pay it back too.

    Isakson: Pandering to the Tea Party while mailing checks to home buyers ? Saxby: Rejoicing in a farm bill that was a few hundred billion more than the last one while insuring that 10% of those big boys getting subsidies get 82% of the money in Georgia (70% of the farmers get 0). The ethanol crowd has been pleased too with biofuel supports. Have they both promised not to raise the debt ceiling ?

    Do subsidies buy food for the poor or just help the big picture ? For the tens of millions each year to the big peanut guys in GA. how many pounds of wholesale peanut butter were sent to our poor school kids ? Or did the corporate guy buy a new plane to write off ?

    The Republic would be best served with term limits, no pension legislators. But it has to be U.S. wide. Do your duty & come on home.

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