U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (File Photo)
The political posturing in Georgia broke into high gear on Friday when U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, announced that he will not be seeking a third term in the Senate.
In his time in the Senate and, earlier, in the U.S. House, Chambliss has represented Georgia well. As a resident of Southwest Georgia, he gave our region a voice that is unlikely to be heard as clearly in his successor, who is all but guaranteed to come from north of the Gnat Line.
And while two decades in Washington is a good enough reason to retire, Chambliss' reasons for leaving the Senate are disturbing, particularly for the future of our nation. Congress is dysfunctional to the point of ridiculousness. It has gotten so bad that Congress passed sequestration in an attempt to make failure to deal with the national debt so distasteful that representatives and senators would have no alternative but to tackle the issue. That effort failed miserably. Now, the House has passed a measure that would hold in escrow the paychecks of lawmakers whose chamber of Congress doesn't pass a budget resolution by April 15. The Senate hasn't been able to pass one in four years.
Even an act of Congress can't get Congress to act.
Chambliss, who was expected to draw opposition in 2014, largely because he -- gasp! -- has reached across the aisle to work with Democrats on ways to address problems such as spending, immigration and energy independence, says he is not throwing in the political towel because he's afraid of losing.
"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," he said Friday. "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."
So why give up the office? Because Chambliss, after all these years in Congress, doesn't see things getting any better.
"Instead," Chambliss said in explaining his decision, "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."
And that's the sad truth that we, as Americans, face -- government that is moving away from us. The Republican Party is continuing a drive to the hard right, and the Democratic Party is turning left. Ideology and good of the party are steering the ship of state, and those who have the good of the nation as a whole at the forefront of their thoughts are stuck below deck, unable to effect meaningful action.
There is less and less room for statesmen in our federal government. And at the conclusion of 2014, one more of those statesmen will have left the Hill.
-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board