Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chambliss Takes a New Tack in Senate; He's Shifting His Stance on Various Issues, Changing Committees

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chambliss Takes a New Tack in Senate; He's Shifting His Stance on Various Issues, Changing Committees

Article excerpt

Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA - Sen. Saxby Chambliss is taking steps that could redeem his standing with conservatives and put him in positions of historic significance.

Though the Republican from Moultrie won re-election two years ago, it came only after a rare, statewide runoff with the considerably more liberal Democrat Jim Martin, a close call for an incumbent. Although Democrat Barack Obama was riding a national landslide to the White House over Republican John McCain, Georgia supported McCain, but Chambliss drew far fewer votes than McCain.

Chambliss, while proclaiming himself a conservative, angered the right with several of his positions. First, he sided with President George W. Bush on immigration policy that conservatives described as amnesty. Chambliss did an about-face after hearing the boos at the state Republican convention.

Then Chambliss was one of the leaders in the Senate in an effort to open the U.S. coast to more oil drilling. Even though conservatives wanted to "drill here, drill now," they viewed Chambliss as robbing McCain of his most powerful campaign argument against Obama and the Democrats.

Chambliss was also on the defensive for the generous producer subsidies in a farm bill passed while he chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee. Those complaints didn't come from his South Georgia base, but anyone running statewide in Georgia has to pay attention to the vote-rich suburbs of Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah.

Finally, Chambliss voted for the bank bailout.

SHIFT FARTHER RIGHT

His return toward the good graces of the right includes voting against the federal stimulus packages and health reform. Now, he has given up his position as ranking minority member on the Agriculture Committee in the new Congress for the same post on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"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," he said.

Intelligence is familiar territory for Chambliss. In the House, he chaired an intelligence committee and won a seat on the Senate panel as a freshman because of his House experience. That House slot helped woo conservatives when he first ran for the Senate.

If Republicans gain a majority in the Senate, Chambliss would be in line to serve as the committee's chairman. …

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