Moultrie Observer

Local News

January 16, 2013

Chambliss hits hot-button issues during Moultrie speech

MOULTRIE — In a lengthy talk Moultrie’s hometown U.S. senator covered topics ranging from agriculture to defense and the “fiscal cliff” to gun violence.

With tea partiers threatening to run a candidate to challenge him in 2014, Chambliss, who has tried to address the budget issue in the past by working with the bipartisan Gang of Six, said he is concentrating on doing the right thing.

The question that elicited that response brought rancor to the normally polite gathering of Rotary and Kiwanis Club members last week at Sunset Country Club.

As a member of the audience said he was worried because it seemed that there is a large group of irrational people currently in Congress and asked what can be done to make sure the country’s business is handled rationally, one elderly audience member told him to “shut the hell up.”

Chambliss, who criticized Senate Democrats for failing to pass a budget in four years during his prepared remarks, said that the majority in both houses will have to take votes on unpopular issues they would rather not do.

“Because you have to govern,” he said. “I’m one of those who think that when you do the right thing, politics takes care of itself.

“You’ve got to find some people who have spines and backbones and are going to do the right thing, and it’s not getting better.”

On another hot button issue of gun violence that was brought to the highest pitch in years by the fatal shooting of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Conn., Chambliss said that he supports the Second Amendment but thinks the issue is ripe for discussion.

“When it comes to the (tragedy) of Newtown and the other things that have happened around the country ... I am very supportive of having a national dialogue,” he said. “Mental health needs to be in the dialogue. I’m interested in guns being part of that debate.”

On the question of a new farm bill, Chambliss said that for the first time since taking office in 1995 he voted last year against a farm bill because it was not good for farmers in the Southeast.

He said he supports farm legislation that eliminates direct payments to landowners whether they farm or not, which has long been a criticism of farm programs. The Senate bill, which was not taken up by the House, would have changed that.

Farmers need countercyclical payments that will help them in tough years when prices are low and do not cost the government money when prices are high, he said. Crop insurance alone that pays for disasters is not sufficient.

“The problem is, crop insurance for cotton and peanuts doesn’t work,” he said.

On the topic of debt, the senator said that the issue was not addressed last year because it was a presidential election year.

To deal realistically with debt, he said, there must be new revenues — which were addressed in the fiscal cliff deal that let tax breaks expire on couples making more than $450,000 and individuals making more than $400,000 — entitlement reform and spending cuts.

“If we’re truly going to solve our problem, everybody’s going to have to feel some pain,” he said. “If everybody doesn’t feel some pain, we’re not solving the problem.”

The tax deal did keep in place the $5 million exclusion on estate taxes with an annual increase for inflation.

Chambliss’ willingness to compromise does not include giving President Barack Obama his demand to increase the debt limit without discussing budget cuts, however.

“It may mean we can’t pay our bills, it may mean we may have a credit downgrade,” he said, “but Mr. President we’re going to have a debate on this.”


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