A broken Washington finally grinds down Saxby Chambliss

A scandalous photo wended its way through Washington last week, documenting a furtive-looking meeting at a dark Capitol Hill bar in Washington.

In the photograph, U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mark Warner of Virginia, one Republican and one Democrat, are engaged in close conversation. Possibly, theirs was yet another bipartisan discussion of D.C.’s terrible fiscal condition. They’ve been beating that drum for the better part of two years – to little effect.


Perhaps Chambliss was chewing over his decision to throw in the towel. According to the time stamp, the photo at The Monocle was snapped on Wednesday, 48 hours before he pulled the plug on a 19-year career in Congress and a third term in the U.S. Senate.

The sight of a Republican and Democrat engaged in civil discourse has become so rare that the moment — like two threatened pandas in a zoo — was worth capturing. In itself, that’s proof that Washington has become an incredibly sick place. A …

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Let the Senate race polling begin

WASHINGTON – Astute reader Jacob Hawkins of Cartersville already got an automated phone poll on the newly open Senate seat, designed to target Republicans — and seemingly to test a crossover candidate.

The poll starts by asking for preference among the following GOP names: U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, Herman Cain, former Secretary of State Karen Handel, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, U.S. Rep. Tom Price and U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.

The poll then asks if the caller would “be willing to contribute financially to your candidate.” Then: “If your candidate does not win the primary election, for which of the following potential Democratic candidates would you most consider voting for in the general election?”

The Dems listed are state Rep. Stacey Abrams, former Attorney General Thurbert Baker, U.S. Rep. John Barrow, state Sen. Jason Carter, former Commissioner of Labor Michael Thurmond, former state Rep. DuBose Porter and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Our friends …

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Another name in the mix to replace Saxby Chambliss: Sonny Perdue

Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich are out. U.S. Reps. Paul Broun and Tom Price have formally begun pondering their futures, now that U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss has decided to step out of their way.

But here’s another name that’s only just surfacing: That of Sonny Perdue, modern Georgia’s original Republican governor.

“The governor is really concerned about the current course of the country, and is very much analyzing today’s news,” a close associate said this afternoon.

Consider the potential: Perdue presided over a pretty good economy, he has immediate statewide name Id, he’s had three years to put his family affairs in order, and he’s already taken on Grover Norquist.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss: Frustration with Washington drove him out

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the leader of a bipartisan effort to address the federal deficit, this morning pointed to gridlock in Washington for his decision not to seek a third term in 2014.

A statement just released by his office includes this:

“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.

“Instead, 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 …

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Your daily jolt: ‘We’ve got to stop being the stupid party’

Let a very necessary conversation begin. From the Associated Press:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called on the Republican Party to “stop being the stupid party” on Thursday as GOP leaders promised fundamental changes to help stave off future losses.

In the keynote address at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, Jindal said the GOP doesn’t need to change its values but “might need to change just about everything else we are doing.”

“We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults,” he said. “We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.”

Jindal, thought to be a potential 2016 presidential contender, offered little detail in the 25-minute address. He called on conservatives to shift their focus from Capitol Hill number crunching to “the place where conservatism thrives — in the real world beyond the …

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John Barrow pitches nonpartisan redistricting

WASHINGTON – Athens-then-Savannah-then-Augusta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow knows plenty about partisan redistricting. Twice, he has been drawn out of his district by Republicans eager to unseat him. But he moved into the new lines and kept on winning. In November he secured his fifth term.

Today Barrow introduced a bill that he hopes will allow more moderates like him to survive: HR 223 would take redistricting out of the hands of state Legislatures and put it into the hands of nonpartisan commissions. The commission would solicit public comment on the plan, which would have to be approved by the courts.

The bill is named for John Tanner, a former Blue Dog Democratic Rep. from Tennessee who retired before the 2010 elections.

California implemented the nonpartisan system in the most recent redistricting, but ProPublica reported how Democrats infiltrated the system and used it to their gain. In an interview during an October campaign visit to Swainsboro, Barrow discussed …

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Tom Graves: Women in combat ‘on par with reality’

For the second time this week, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, has surprised us with a move that seems downright, well, centrist.

On Wednesday, Graves, one of Georgia’s most conservative members of Congress, voted with House Republican leadership to put off another confrontation with the White House over the federal debt ceiling. It was something that many of his colleagues – Democrats John Barrow and Hank Johnson, Republicans Paul Broun, Doug Collins and Phil Gingrey – couldn’t bring themselves to do.

Then we have the lifting of the Pentagon ban on women in combat, signed by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta this morning.

Some Republican reaction has been predictable. “Putting women in combat situations is the latest in a series of moves where political correctness and liberal social policy have trumped sound military practice,” GOP strategist Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said in a Newsmax interview.

Former Florida congressman Allen …

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Your daily jolt: 122,949 white Georgia voters went missing in 2012 presidential race

Black voters in Georgia turned out for the November presidential election at nearly the same rate as they did in 2008, while white voter turnout dropped measurably, according to demographic statistics released this week by Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Usually calculated in the weeks following an election, a spokesman for Kemp said the statistics – gathered as required by the Voting Rights Act — were delayed by incomplete numbers from Fulton County. But the breakdown remains doubly important for political wonks, given that Georgia wasn’t included in any exit polling.

Last November, Republican challenger Mitt Romney beat Democratic incumbent Barack Obama in Georgia by 53 to 46 percent, doing slightly better than John McCain against Obama (52 percent to 47 percent) four years earlier.

But behind the percentages are some numbers that, in a state where race and voting preference run parallel to each other, ought to concern Republicans. White voter participation dropped by …

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A woodshed season for John Barge

State Superintendent John Barge consults with a staffer following a hearing before a joint meeting of the House and Senate budget committees. Jason Getz/jgetz@ajc.com

State Superintendent John Barge consults with a staffer following a hearing before a joint meeting of the House and Senate budget committees. Jason Getz/jgetz@ajc.com

A season of punishment has begun for state School Superintendent John Barge – payback for his opposition to last year’s ballot measure restoring the state’s power to create charter schools throughout Georgia.

But at the state Capitol, the first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club. Those throwing the punches don’t want to appear vindictive. Those on the receiving end know that things could get ever so much worse.

This week, it was Barge’s duty to go before state lawmakers to explain educational spending in Gov. Nathan Deal’s $19.8 billion proposed budget for next year. Unless you had the document in front of you, you would never have known that Deal had shrunk Barge’s central office budget from $87 million to $27 million.

The governor had really, really liked that charter …

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Debt-ceiling measure clears; Phil Gingrey shifts to ‘no’

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House this afternoon passed a measure to put off hitting the nation’s borrowing limit until May 18. More background from today’s paper is here.

Most of Georgia’s delegation supported the proposal — which also withholds senators’ paychecks after April 15 if they do not pass a budget — with the following members voting no (full results here): Democrats John Barrow of Augusta and Hank Johnson of DeKalb County; Republicans Paul Broun of Athens, Doug Collins of Gainesville and Phil Gingrey of Marietta.

Gingrey’s position on the matter has shifted in the last couple of days. At the Georgia Society gala in Washington on Sunday night, he told the AJC, “I think it’s a good plan,” and described the wisdom in his eyes of “resequencing” fiscal fights – putting March’s across-the-board “sequester” cuts and expiration of federal funding for the year ahead of the debt ceiling deadline. He added, in reference to the no-budget-no-pay part of the bill: …

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