TAMPA — U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss stopped by AJC headquarters at the Republican National Convention this afternoon.
One of the first topics we hit him with were Gov. Nathan Deal’s comments on his effort to broker a grand deal on the federal deficit that included a Simpson-Bowles approach – a 3:1 mix of budget cuts and revenue increases.
”Not necessarily. I think this is a terrible time to be talking about tax increases.”
Chambliss’ reaction wasn’t one of dismissal, but it was close to that neighborhood:
”It’s not his issue. We need senators signing on. It’s great to have governors, but he’s got his own issues he’s got to deal with. As he well knows, this is something that we’ve got to figure out.”
And truth be told, Deal has just finished weathering a transportation sales tax campaign started by someone else. One can hardly expect the governor to be eager to join another fight picked by someone who’s not him.
On the White House’s announcement that American-made cars will be required to get an average 54 miles per gallon by 2025, the senator was skeptical:
”That doesn’t surprise me. This administration lives in political la-la land. It’s nice to think that you can do that.”
We also asked Chambliss, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, what the chances were that we’d see Iran or Syria blow up before the November elections. Said Georgia’s senior senator:
”You saw the president’s comments on Syria at the end of last week. I talked to General [David] Patraeus, [director of the Central Intelligence Agency]. I didn’t take what the president said as any kind of ramping up, but I asked that question of David, and he said no.
“There’s going to come a point when all of this rebel business shakes out. There’s so many groups. We’ve got to figure out who is the real deal. Who is the leadership among that myriad of rebel groups. I think when we figure that out – then there will be more U.S. involvement. Not troops on the ground – who knows what it will be.”
”It’s hard to say. [President Bashar ] al-Assad will dictate that. If he ramps up the killing of innocent people, then it will become more and more important that the U.S. engage. And we’re not going to do it without our allies.”
”That could blow up any day. You guys could know it before we do. Because I don’t think Israel has the trust in this administration to give them much advance notice. It remains a powder keg.”
Chambliss said that Republican control of the Senate will depend on a strong performance from Mitt Romney, who will be nominated on Thursday:
”We keep running into dead ends. Olympia Snowe in Maine, and now [Todd] Akin. Every seat is precious. Certainly the scenario is still there.”
How well Romney performs will determine whether the Senate goes GOP:
” I think it’s still Romney driving everybody. Some of the seats we’ll need to get to 51—Florida, in particular, Nevada, Massachusetts. Romney at the top of the ticket is what’s going to dictate.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider