The death of moderate GOP New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman, one of three senators who authored a landmark 1985 deficit-cutting bill, raises a question crucial to America’s economy 27 years later: Are there any Rudmans left on Capitol Hill in this era of bitter partisanship and unmovable ideological beliefs?
“Yes. And anyone who just dismisses that notion doesn’t know the Senate very well,” Dov Zakheim, a former George W. Bush Pentagon official and Mitt Romney campaign adviser, told Defense News this week.
Zakheim declined to name names, but added: “There are people on both sides who are ready and willing to get this done.”
One lawmaker who might be stepping into that role is Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., a member of the so-called “Gang of Six,” a group of upper chamber lawmakers from both parties who quietly have been working on a deficit-paring plan.
Chambliss told a television station in his home state late last week avoiding the sequester cuts and a “fiscal cliff” economist say would be created if twin $500 billion cuts to planned federal defense and domestic spending occur and tax cuts are allowed to expire might require breaking the no-tax hikes pledge many Republicans have made.
Taking aim at Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist, Chambliss bluntly said: “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge. Chambliss said he has a “fundamental disagreement” with Norquist.
“If we do it his way, then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that,” Chambliss said. “But I don’t worry about that because I care too much about my country. I care a lot more about it than I do Grover Norquist.”
Congress is back next week for what promises to be an action-packed lame duck session. Will more senior Republican lawmakers follow Chambliss’ lead? Stay tuned.