Saxby Chambliss on Friday said he intended to give up his status as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, swapping it for a similar position on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The move would put him in line for chairmanship of one of the most powerful – and face it, intriguing — committees in Washington, should Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate.
And yes, Chambliss plans to run for re-election in 2014.
Committee assignments in the new Senate haven’t been formalized yet. (And Chambliss would keep his seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.)
But a leadership move from agriculture to intelligence would remove Chambliss from negotiations over the next farm bill in 2012 – sure to be marked by an intra-GOP fight over subsidies. “I did the last farm bill — carried the ball on it. And it’s probably time for somebody with other ideas to lead that process in 2012,” Chambliss said.
Highlights of the interview:
– Chambliss predicted that Republicans will be able to force a debate over the repeal of last year’s health care overhaul:
”I saw that [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid said it would never come up in the Senate. I don’t know why he would make that statement. Because I assure you, if we have to, every bill that comes before the Senate will have repeal of health care as an amendment.
“And under our rules, germaneness is not an issue. He’s going to have a hard time getting cloture without an up-or-down vote on health care repeal. He may have the vote – he probably does. But there will be a vote.”
– More on his switch to a leadership role on Senate Intelligence:
“Obviously, that would be a major, major move. It would give me more of a say-so from a policy standpoint. That’s the reason you’re in office – to have to opportunity to be involved in major decisions.”
– Which is why he’s so certain on seeking a third term in 2014:
”Oh, yeah. I’m planning to run. My health is good. I’m beating this prostate cancer [diagnosed in 2004]. I’m cured. As long as I like what I’m doing, and my family’s still excited about coming to the White House now and then – plus this moving to intel. I’ll have a much more major role in policy. We truly are going to be at the point of the spear.
“We’ve got some huge issues. Guantanamo – trying folks in military courts, which I’m a strong proponent of. Lindsey Graham [of South Carolina] and I will have a bill on that as soon as we get back. Increasing the way we gather intelligence – which is the core of fighting and winning this war on terrorism.”
– On the tension among Republicans that’s likely to arise over the next farm bill debate:
”This is going to be the most difficult farm bill to write….First of all is the lack of money. We’re not going to have the funding that we have had in the past.
“Does that mean we eliminate subsidies? Probably not. We can’t do that and have a really good safety net out there for farmers. …I think the fight will be over direct payments. We get criticized for putting direct payments into a farm bill. And direct payments go to farmers whether they plant anything or not.
“I don’t like that concept philosophically, but one reason we have direct payments is, they’re the most [World Trade Organization]-compliant part of any farm bill. Every European country provides direct payments to their farmers.”
– But Chambliss said his shift to intelligence issues won’t take him out of the fight over immigration reform:
”We’ll be at the forefront of that debate. We’ve got the only guest-worker program that really works, in agriculture. This administration is trying to screw it up.
“Diane Feinstein and I have already had a conversation. She, interestingly enough, has always led the other side of it. California has a little different perspective on it than we do. But Diane’s chairman of the intel committee.
“In conversation, we’ve said, hey, this may also be an opportunity to resolve our ag jobs issue, too.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider