Here’s something you don’t hear Washington politicians say everyday – bipartisanship.
While Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss was frank in his opinion about what needs to be done in Washington, during a talk to Sandy Springs business leaders, Monday, he said there has to be some give and take from both sides of the Congressional aisle.
“Republicans don’t have all the good ideas. Democrats have some good ideas too,” he said. “Bipartisanship is needed.”
Chambliss was the featured speaker at the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce Bagels and Business Breakfast event at the Westin Hotel. He offered insight on upcoming bills, the debt crisis and terrorism. [The Senator is vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.]
“When you get into any election year, things slow down, particularly a Presidential election year,” he said. “We’ve been in that mode for several months.”
But the Senator has been a busy member of the so-called “Gang of Six,” who are supporters of the Simpson Bowles plan and working on a compromise to reform Medicare, Social Security and the tax code, i.e., the federal corporate tax rate.
“If you lower the corporate to 25 percent vs. the 35 percent rate it is today, CEOs say they will create jobs," he said. "That’s going to energize this economy; put people back to work, broaden the tax base…and the number of taxpayers out there, to get those revenues up.”
The Senator didn’t mention Sandy Springs senior citizens but regionally there is a significant aging population on Medicare and Medicaid, who may have been concerned about the looming “fiscal cliff,” he spoke of. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire on Dec. 31st and Chambliss says a consequence will see physicians faced with a 27 percent reduction in their reimbursement rate for Medicare.
“They’re working at about breakeven now. You take 27 percent of the reimbursement rate away from them, how many physicians do you think are going to see Medicare patients,” he asked. “We’ve got to fix that.”
Although local infrastructure problems could be relieved by the passing of the transportation referendum in July, Chambliss said the rest of the country must rely heavily on the Transportation Authorization Bill for needed improvements.
The House and Senate did not agree on the structure of the bill, he said.
"That bill is in conference and I hope it comes out in the short term because we need some planning long range, relative to infrastructure and planning, and without that bill we can’t do it,” he added.
In the past 100 percent of transportation projects were earmarked, but that is no longer the case.
Concerns in Afghanistan
On terrorism, Chambliss explained that the U.S. is engaging the Afghan intelligence and military community in many ways to learn what the Taliban is doing in Pakistan.
He said the Afghanistan intelligence community at the border of Pakistan is attacked daily. “Usually mortar rounds are coming into their compounds every day,” he said. “They are sending their people out into the community every day to try gather information about what the enemy is doing; where they are crossing the border; and what it takes to provide our military personnel with the right kind of intelligence to take the fight to the enemy.”
He took a recent trip to Afghanistan with fellow members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Our men and women doing an unbelievable job,” Chambliss said.
While there, the Committee learned about improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs being made in the town of Chaman, in Pakistan, and placed in roadways and vehicles. “These are devices that are killing our men and women. It is imperative to put a stop to it, but we don’t have the cooperation with Pakistan in that region that we need to have,” Chambliss said.
In describing the U.S. relationship with Pakistan as tenuous, the Senator added the importance of keeping the relationship positive to allow the U.S. to move into the country to fight the enemy.
The Senator also mentioned that he and Committee members are urging U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton to declare the Haqqani insurgent group, a terrorist organization.
In dealing with terrorism, Chambliss emphasized intelligence and mentioned the unsuccessful plot to bring down a U.S. airliner, recently.
“It’s imperative our intelligence community continue to be vigilant and continue to monitor tips and information,” he said. “And if we don’t then the bad guys are ultimately going to be right once. And that’s all they have to be right. We have to be right every single time.”