WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, announced on Friday he will not run for a third term in 2014, saying he was fed up with a lack of leadership in the White House and partisan gridlock in Congress.
Targeted by the conservative Tea Party movement for backing a year-end deal that raised taxes on the wealthy, the Georgia lawmaker was one of the few Republicans willing to sit down with Democrats on fiscal issues.
“After much contemplation and reflection, I have decided not to run for re-election to the Senate in 2014.
‘This is a decision Julianne and I have thought through and prayed about for many weeks. I am humbled by and grateful for the extraordinary trust of Georgians, who have allowed me to represent them for 20 years in the United States House and Senate.
“I am proud of my conservative voting record in fulfilling those duties. In 2008, I was honored to receive more votes than any other statewide elected official in the history of Georgia. Lest anyone think this decision is about a primary challenge, I have no doubt that had I decided to be a candidate, I would have won re-election. In these difficult political times, I am fortunate to have actually broadened my support around the state and the nation due to the stances I have taken.
“Instead, this is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress, especially on issues that are the foundation of our nation’s economic health. The debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 and the recent fiscal-cliff vote showed Congress at its worst and, sadly, I don’t see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon. For our nation to be strong, for our country to prosper, we cannot continue to play politics with the American economy.
“I never intended to come to Washington and stay for 20 years. But in that time, I have been proud to fight for the economic good of Georgia and the security of our nation. That includes work on four farm bills, 18 defense-authorization bills, chairmanship of the House Terrorism Subcommittee in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and being chairman or ranking member of major Senate committees for 8 of the past 10 years.
“Perhaps the greatest honor has been to champion our men and women in uniform, their families, and the Georgia military bases and contractors who create private-sector jobs.
“I am truly grateful for the love, support, trust and assistance of family and friends who have helped me along the way. I am especially indebted to my staff – past and present – whose loyalty and knowledge have not only served me well, but have served the people of Georgia superbly.
“There are two years left in my term, and there is lots left to do. I am in good health, and I plan to continue working hard to represent the best interests of Georgians, and to do my utmost to help restore America to its economic greatness.”
“This is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress, especially on issues that are the foundation of our nation’s economic health,” Chambliss said in a statement Friday.
During December’s negotiations to avoid the New Year’s Day austerity measures, Chambliss rebelled against anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist and said he was open to President Barack Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy.
He was criticized by fellow conservative lawmakers, who have signed Norquist’s “taxpayer protection pledge.” But Chambliss said he cared “more about this country” than he did about a 20-year-old pledge.
Congress eventually passed a last-minute deal that extended tax breaks for all Americans except families earning more than $450,000 per year.
Read more about the Senator here.
But fiscally conservative activists were irate with lawmakers for raising taxes without cutting spending and started looking for replacements for Chambliss and other Republicans who backed the deal.
No one had announced a Republican Primary challenge to Chambliss, although U.S. Reps. Jack Kingston, Tom Price and Paul Broun were seen as potential candidates, as was former presidential candidate Herman Cain, now an Atlanta radio talk show host.
On the Democratic side, the state Democratic Party expressed that Chambliss’ retirement was an opportunity to begin changing the political color of the state, with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s name floated as a possibility.
Meanwhile, Chambliss’ colleagues in Congress poured positive sentiments onto the shoulders of the Southwest Georgia native.
“Saxby and I have been friends for 51 years and it has been my honor to serve alongside him in the U.S. House and in the U.S. Senate,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Marietta, said. “We first met when we attended the University of Georgia together in the 1960s and our wives — Julianne Chambliss and Dianne Isakson — happened to be sorority sisters at UGA. I have supported Saxby in every political race he’s run, and I’m grateful that he has done the same for me.
“Saxby is a true statesman who has worked tirelessly throughout his time in public life to represent the values and interests of Georgians. Our state and our country are better because of Saxby Chambliss. I will miss him dearly after 2014, but I look forward to working with him for two more years in the Senate to tackle the tough issues facing our country.”
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, was equally as gracious in his comments.
“The announcement caught me by surprise,” Bishop said. “I will certainly miss working with him on a bipartisan basis on issues affecting Georgia and our nation such as agriculture, national defense, fiscal responsibility, and our economic recovery.
“Senator Chambliss is a thoughtful and courageous public servant who puts the good of the country before party politics. Having served with him as a colleague in the U.S. House of Representatives, having served as his congressman, and having shared a warm personal relationship with Saxby and Julianne, Vivian and I respect his decision, extend our best wishes and look forward to working together for Georgians and the country during the remainder of his service.”
Chambliss is a member of the so-called Gang of Eight senators, a bipartisan alliance working for deficit reduction that has, so far, failed to come up with a viable plan.
“Sadly, I don’t see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving any time soon,” he said.
Chambliss is the second Republican senator to resign partly due to the House and Senate’s inability to get anything done. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the only Republican to vote for Obama’s healthcare bill in the Senate Finance Committee, retired from the Senate for similar reasons.