Saxby Chambliss is waffling around like a dog off its leash for the first time.
He says he does not care about a “twenty year old pledge” he signed. He’s talking about the Americans for Tax Reform pledge that says he pledges not to raise taxes. He has clarified his remarks to mean he wants tax reform that increases revenue through job growth.
Everyone knows that Saxby meant he was happy to raise taxes. Now, under pressure back home, he is waffling. He covets his seat in Washington and is fearful of being primaries. Georgia has primary run-offs, whichs means he can be taken out. He cannot bring himself to say he wants to raise revenue through changing in the tax code that will cause taxes to go up, so he dances around. Behind the scenes, we all know he will work to structure a proposal that increases taxes on Americans, but he’ll cleverly make sure there are enough votes so he can vote against it. He is active and has been actively complicit with Mark Warner (D, VA) and others on raising taxes.
I started working on Saxby Chambliss’s campaign in 1994, the year he beat Craig Mathis. Mathis, who still has a bumper sticker stuck to a light pole next to Vineville Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia, ran as a typical Southern Democrat. Saxby campaigned that Mathis would join Bill Clinton in raising taxes on the American people. A symbol of his commitment to not raise taxes was the Americans for Tax Reform pledge. Saxby won in the 1994 Republican wave with a brilliant campaign manager named Rob Leeburn, who went on to be his Chief of Staff for a number of years.
In the campaigns of 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2000 — all of which I actively volunteered on his campaign so much so that I had a key to the office and occasionally slept on the nasty, but incredibly comfortable couch in the back office — Chambliss kept an oversized copy of his ATR pledge at the front door of his campaign office. When his signature would begin to fade, he’d re-sign the pledge on top of his old signature.
In the seventeen years Saxby Chambliss has been in Congress, expenditures have outpaced revenue in all but four of those years. Those years happened to be during the Clinton years during the height of the dot-com bubble people forget when talking about Clinton tax rates. Since that time, and for the entirety of the time the Republicans controlled Congress, outlays have exceeded receipts. But Saxby and the GOP stuck to their no new tax pledge.
Saxby Chambliss has been one of the culprits in Washington’s spending addition. Forget the War on Terror, etc. While national security matters explain a good bit of the deficits, they do not explain all of them. For example, Saxby Chambliss was a major proponent of agricultural largess. After the Democrats took back Congress in 2006, Saxby Chambliss personally lobbied the entire Georgia delegation to support the Ag bill he favored. All the House Republicans from Georgia, except Phil Gingrey, broke with Chambliss on that.
Chambliss has been a huge spender for agriculture and defense, two key constituencies he has always had. He has, in short, spoken like a champion of limited government, but voted like a free spending liberal for his own constituencies. Now, in the ultimate sign that Chambliss is ready to throw in the towel on any pretense, he signals he wants to raise taxes . . . . errrr . . . . “revenue.”
Revenue has gone up significantly since Saxby Chambliss first got to Washington. While it dipped between 2007 and 2009, even the drop into 2009 yielded higher revenue than existed in 2004 during George Bush’s re-election. Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem, but Saxby Chambliss, being part of that problem, cannot see it. Instead, he sees a growing gap between spending and revenue and thinks it must be closed by increasing revenue.
Saxby Chambliss has been part of the problem and remains part of the problem.
A couple of years ago a mutual friend from Macon went up to see Saxby. There was a tea party rally going on. As our mutual friend sat in the office waiting for Saxby, his staff stood around ridiculing the tea party activists going by as simpletons, uneducated, hicks, and nuts. Chambliss himself has been overheard talking disparagingly of tea party activists in the Capitol Hill Club and elsewhere.
He has become entrenched in Washington, DC and thinks that we here in Georgia are the problem, not him. In 2005, he was convinced that we here in Georgia were the problem on immigration. Since then he’s been convinced that we here in Georgia are the problem by not sending enough money to Washington, D.C.
In fact, we here in Georgia should convince Saxby that we are a problem — his problem in his path to re-election. We can and should make him fight for it and, the Good Lord willing, drive him from office in 2014. Georgia requires that a candidate in a primary secure 50% of the vote to get to the general election. A couple of well funded challengers could pull Saxby below 50% thereby forcing a runoff fight between Saxby and a conservative challenger. Saxby, being from South Georgia, has a weakness in the metro-Atlanta area. That weakness, combined with a libertarian four years ago, forced Saxby into a runoff election.
A conservative from metro-Atlanta could put Saxby Chambliss in peril and we should work to make that happen.