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Republican

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R)

Saxby Chambliss Contact
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Email: n/a
DC Contact Information

Phone: 202-224-3521

Address: 416 RSOB, DC 20510

Saxby Chambliss Committees
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Saxby Chambliss Biography
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  • Elected: 2002, term expires 2014, 2nd term.
  • State: Georgia
  • Born: Nov. 10, 1943, Warrenton, NC
  • Home: Moultrie
  • Education:

    U. of GA, B.A. 1966, U. of TN, J.D. 1968

  • Professional Career:

    Practicing atty., 1968–94.

  • Political Career:

    U.S. House of Reps., 1995-2003.

  • Religion:

    Episcopalian

  • Family: Married (Julianne); 2 children

Republican Saxby Chambliss, Georgia’s senior senator, was elected in 2002 after serving four terms in the House. He is conservative, but he has irritated the tea party wing of the party by leading a bipartisan “gang” of senators seeking common ground on fiscal matters. Chambliss announced in January 2013 that he will retire when his seat is up in the 2014 election. He may have faced a tough primary challenge if he had chosen to run for a third term. Read More

Republican Saxby Chambliss, Georgia’s senior senator, was elected in 2002 after serving four terms in the House. He is conservative, but he has irritated the tea party wing of the party by leading a bipartisan “gang” of senators seeking common ground on fiscal matters. Chambliss announced in January 2013 that he will retire when his seat is up in the 2014 election. He may have faced a tough primary challenge if he had chosen to run for a third term.

Chambliss grew up in Shreveport, La., the son of an Episcopalian minister, and graduated from the University of Georgia. He practiced business and agricultural law in Moultrie starting in 1968, working for farmers who grew subsidized crops like peanuts and cotton. In 1992, he ran for the U.S. House and lost the Republican primary. In 1994, he ran again and was the sole Republican candidate. In the general election, he faced Democrat Craig Mathis, the 32-year-old son of Rep. Dawson Mathis (1971-81). Chambliss won 63%-37%. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia saw that Chambliss got the committee assignments he needed most—Armed Services, to look after Robins Air Force Base, and Agriculture, to protect subsidies for peanut farmers.

When then-Budget Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, announced his retirement in July 1999, Chambliss launched a campaign for the post. In July 2000, after Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell died suddenly, Chambliss considered running in the November election to succeed him. House Speaker Dennis Hastert persuaded him to stay in the House, and Chambliss came away feeling he would get the Budget chairmanship. But he had competition from Jim Nussle of Iowa. The Republican leadership ultimately picked Nussle, and as consolation, Chambliss got an Agriculture subcommittee chairmanship. Hastert also made him chairman of the Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

Chambliss got a second chance to run for the Senate in 2002. Democratic incumbent Max Cleland had won the seat only narrowly, 49%-48%, in 1996, and Georgia was trending Republican, evident in George W. Bush’s 55%-43% victory there in 2000. Chambliss was not an early favorite to win. Cleland had a compelling biography. After college, he volunteered for the Army and in 1967 went to Vietnam, where he lost both legs and his right arm in a grenade explosion. He served on the Armed Services Committee and had a moderate voting record. But in 2001 and 2002, he tended to stick with the Democratic Caucus while his new colleague, Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller, dissented vociferously on issues from the Bush tax cuts to the Department of Homeland Security personnel rules. After easily winning the Republican primary 61%-27%, Chambliss set out to convince voters that Cleland was “too liberal for Georgia.” He ran a series of ads mentioning votes against a ban on partial-birth abortion and his support of school clinics dispensing morning-after pills without parental permission—all ending with an astounded announcer asking, “Why would he do that?”

But the most important issue was homeland security. Cleland stood with other Senate Democrats in opposing anti-union rules in the new department. The dispute occupied the Senate for much of October 2002 and prevented passage of the bill to create the department. Chambliss ran an ad showing pictures of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and Cleland, and saying that Cleland “voted against the president’s vital homeland security efforts 11 times.” Against this, Cleland’s ads attacking Chambliss for opposing an increase in the minimum wage and for cutting student loans were weak stuff. Apparently Cleland’s impressive record in Vietnam did not inoculate him against charges that he had given short shrift to national security. Chambliss won 53%-46%, a much bigger victory than expected. Chambliss carried metro Atlanta 52%-46%, and he carried the rest of Georgia 54%-46%.

In the Senate, Chambliss established a mostly conservative voting record. He is a close friend of House Speaker John Boehner, and the two are frequent golf partners. But in recent years, his reputation has come largely from working with Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner on budget issues. The two led a “Gang of Six” in the hopes of putting the recommendations of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission into legislation. By July 2011, as lawmakers faced a controversial increase in the federal debt limit, the group had developed a $3.7 trillion deficit-reduction plan. Of that total, $2.7 trillion in cuts came from adjustments to Medicaid and Social Security. Meanwhile, federal revenues would be increased $1.1 trillion over 10 years through changes to tax deductions for home mortgage interest, charitable giving, and health care insurance. But Republicans remained resolutely opposed to any revenue increases, and the deficit-reduction “super committee” failed to make any headway in addressing the deadlock between the parties in 2011. The gang’s proposal never became formal legislation, and the leadership of both parties paid the group scant attention.

Undaunted, Chambliss and the other members continued to meet while warning about the dangers of mounting deficits. After the November 2012 elections, he publicly broke with prominent anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s pledge—signed by Chambliss and most other GOP lawmakers—against raising revenues without offsetting spending elsewhere. “I think that you sent me to Washington to think for myself. … I don’t want to be dictated to by anybody in Washington,” he told a local audience. His remarks sparked immediate talk of a 2014 primary challenge from the right, and prominent conservative blogger Erick Erickson briefly mulled the possibility.

During this time, Chambliss also served as vice chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee. He worked with the panel’s chairman, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, to produce an intelligence authorization bill for fiscal 2013 that included a number of provisions to guard against leaks of classified information in response to numerous GOP concerns about the issue. They also got through the lame-duck Senate in December 2012 an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allowing the government to wiretap conversations involving U.S. citizens suspected of terrorist activity.

On the Armed Services Committee, Chambliss has paid close attention to Georgia’s military bases and defense contractors. In 2006, he moved successfully to reverse plans to cut back on procurement of the F-22 Raptor, produced by Lockheed Martin in Georgia, and he later opposed Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ decision to stop F-22 production (to no avail). Chambliss supported the Bush administration on Iraq, but in 2007, he showed his frustration, telling the Macon Telegraph there were “a lot of bad decisions”in the conduct of the war. However, he consistently voted against cutting off funding for Bush’s troop surge. He largely backed President Barack Obama’s policy on Afghanistan. Regarding Syria, he said in March 2012 that “you can’t rule out military intervention” if economic sanctions don’t work.

The senator’s other locus of activity is the Agriculture Committee. He resisted demands to impose income caps on wealthy farmers and budget cuts in cotton and other commodity programs important to Georgia. As the ranking Republican on the panel in 2008, he worked on that year’s farm bill with Democratic Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa, striving to keep programs at existing levels. In bipartisan negotiations, he added incentives to the bill for cellulosic ethanol, made from switch grass and pine trees that are plentiful in South Georgia. He supported the legislation that passed the Senate in December 2007 and later voted to override Bush’s veto.

In early 2009, he got 19 other Republicans and Montana Democrat Max Baucus to sign a protest of the outgoing Bush administration’s limits on government payments to those not “actively engaged” in farming. And the next year, he opposed the Obama administration’s proposal to cut farm payments and provide farmers a five-year blueprint for assistance. Chambliss said it was an unfair policy change in “midstream.” Also in 2010, while other conservatives criticized first lady Michelle Obama for taking on the issue of childhood obesity, Chambliss publicly backed her. He voted against the 2012 farm bill in June; Chambliss said it wasn’t fair to Southern farmers in part because it did away with direct payments for peanut and cotton growers. He was able to add a last-minute amendment to compel farmers receiving insurance subsidies to take steps to reduce erosion and protect wetlands.

During the Republicans’ 2003-07 majority, Chambliss was the chairman of the immigration subcommittee of Judiciary. Initially, he was favorable to Bush’s proposal for a guest worker program, at least for farm workers, but he opposed a controversial provision to give illegal workers a process to achieve citizenship. In the spring of 2007 he and his Georgia GOP colleague Johnny Isakson—the two have known each other since their days as classmates at the University of Georgia—worked together in a bipartisan coalition to fashion a bill. They got a provision requiring that the border be secured before the guest worker program could begin. When Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the bill to the floor in late June, Chambliss and Isakson opposed allowing the legislation to move forward unless a separate appropriations bill for border security was passed.

The two cooperated closely on other issues, co-sponsoring an amendment in 2009 legalizing gun ownership in Washington, D.C. It was tacked on to the bill giving the District of Columbia a seat in the House, and when Democrats objected, the bill stalled. Chambliss also opposed the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, singling out her decision as dean of Harvard Law School to restrict military recruiters’ access to the campus.

In 2008, Chambliss had an unexpectedly close race for reelection.Obama’s smashing 66%-31% victory in the state’s February 5 presidential primary and the high black turnout convinced many Democratic leaders that they had a chance to win the seat. Conservatives were also disgruntled with Chambliss’ stands on immigration and the farm bill.

In March 2008, Democrat Jim Martin got into the contest. He was little known but had a long résumé: a stint as a military intelligence officer in Vietnam, a former member of the state House, and the head of the state Human Resources Department. Martin linked Chambliss to President Bush’s policies, while the incumbent took pains to point out that he differed with Bush on immigration, the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, and the farm bill. When Chambliss and Isakson, operating as usual in tandem, voted for the $700 billion rescue of the financial markets on October 1, Martin responded with ads denouncing their votes. Chambliss ultimately outspent Martin, $16 million to $7.5 million, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and other Democratic groups made up much of the difference. Georgia law requires general election candidates to get 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. When the votes were counted in November, Chambliss led Martin by 110,000 votes, but got just 49.8% of the vote to Martin’s 46.8%, falling 9,146 votes short of winning without a runoff.

The runoff came four weeks later, on December 2. The national parties and allied groups pumped in at least $5 million. The Obama campaign kept open its 25 field offices and sent 75 more organizers to help Martin. National Republicans sent in operatives to work for Chambliss as well as their top attractions: Sen. John McCain of Arizona, vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Arkansas’ Mike Huckabee, and Massachusetts’ Mitt Romney. Overall, turnout in the runoff was only 57% of that for the general election, and all indications were that the drop-off was greater than average among African-Americans, left-leaning students, and other Democratic constituencies. Only 2.1 million Georgians voted, far fewer than the 3.7 million in November. Chambliss won 57%-43%.

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Saxby Chambliss Election Results
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2008 Runoff
Saxby Chambliss (R)
Votes: 1,228,033
Percent: 57.0%
Jim Martin
Votes: 909,923
Percent: 43.0%
2008 General
Saxby Chambliss (R)
Votes: 1,867,097
Percent: 50.0%
Spent: $18,346,273
Jim Martin
Votes: 1,757,393
Percent: 47.0%
Spent: $7,490,201
Allen Buckley
Votes: 127,923
Percent: 3.41%
Spent: $28,666
2008 Primary
Saxby Chambliss (R)
Votes: 392,902
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2002 (53%); House: 2000 (59%), 1998 (62%), 1996 (53%), 1994 (63%)
Saxby Chambliss Votes and Bills
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National Journal’s rating system is an objective method of analyzing voting. The liberal score means that the lawmaker’s votes were more liberal than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The conservative score means his votes were more conservative than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The composite score is an average of a lawmaker’s six issue-based scores. See all NJ Voting

More Liberal
More Conservative
2013 2012 2011
Economic 35 (L) : 62 (C) 19 (L) : 80 (C) 21 (L) : 78 (C)
Social 27 (L) : 72 (C) 4 (L) : 95 (C) 20 (L) : 78 (C)
Foreign 32 (L) : 67 (C) 16 (L) : 77 (C) 26 (L) : 71 (C)
Composite 32.2 (L) : 67.8 (C) 14.5 (L) : 85.5 (C) 23.3 (L) : 76.7 (C)
Interest Group Ratings

The vote ratings by 10 special interest groups provide insight into a lawmaker’s general ideology and the degree to which he or she agrees with the group’s point of view. Two organizations provide just one combined rating for 2011 and 2012, the two sessions of the 112th Congress. They are the ACLU and the ITIC. About the interest groups.

20112012
FRC7171
LCV021
CFG7668
ITIC-75
NTU8271
20112012
COC82-
ACLU-25
ACU8084
ADA200
AFSCME0-
Key Senate Votes

The key votes show how a member of Congress voted on the major bills of the year. N indicates a "no" vote; Y a "yes" vote. If a member voted "present" or was absent, the bill caption is not shown. For a complete description of the bills included in key votes, see the Almanac's Guide to Usage.

    • End fiscal cliff
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Block faith exemptions
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Approve gas pipeline
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Approve farm bill
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Let cyber bill proceed
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Block Gitmo transfers
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Raise debt limit
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Pass balanced budget amendment
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Stop EPA climate regulations
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Proceed to Cordray vote
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Require talking filibuster
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Limit Fannie/Freddie
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Regulate financial firms
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Pass tax cuts for some
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Legalize immigrants' kids
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Ratify New START
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Confirm Elena Kagan
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Stop EPA climate regs
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Repeal don't ask, tell
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Overturn Ledbetter
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Block release of TARP funds
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass $787 billion stimulus
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Repeal DC gun laws
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Confirm Sonia Sotomayor
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass health care bill
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Bar budget rules for climate bill
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass 2010 budget resolution
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Let judges adjust mortgages
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Allow FDA to regulate tobacco
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Protect gays from hate crimes
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Cut F-22 funds
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Label North Korea terrorist state
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Build Guantanamo replacement
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Allow federal funds for abortion
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Cap greenhouse gases
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2008
    • Bail out financial markets
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2008
    • Increase missile defense $
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2008
    • Overhaul FISA
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2008
    • Raise CAFE standards
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Expand SCHIP
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Make English official language
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Path to citizenship
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Fetus is unborn child
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Prosecute hate crimes
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Withdraw troops 3/08
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Iran guard is terrorist group
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
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The Almanac is a members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics. Comprehensive online profiles include biographical and political summaries of elected officials, campaign expenditures, voting records, interest-group ratings, and congressional staff look-ups. In-depth overviews of each state and house district are included as well, along with demographic data, analysis of voting trends, and political histories.
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