By Maria Saporta
During Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) will be sitting next to a Democrat — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D- New Hampshire).
Though it’s a symbolic gesture to get Democrats and Republicans sitting together, Isakson said that the lame duck session proved that it’s possible for the two parties to work together.
Isakson, who was the keynote speaker at today’s Atlanta Press Club’s Newsmaker luncheon, said Washington, D.C. has a lot of hard work to do, and it will require everyone working together.
“We did in 14 days what we couldn’t do in four years,” Isakson said of the lame duck session that passed the extension of the Bush tax cuts, the passage of the START nuclear arms treaty and the extension of unemployment benefits.
Later Isakson spoke of the reality of being a member of the minority in the U.S. Senate.
“I’m a conservative Republican,” Isakson said. “I know if you’ve got 47 votes, you can’t pass a kidney stone.”
Isakson also said that “civility and bi-partisanship” are just words. “We have got to make sure they are words that have meaning,” he said.
Isakson actually was one of the few Republicans who voted in favor of the START treaty saying that the politics surrounding that vote was “the most ridiculous debate I’ve ever seen.”
Would Isakson become one of the Senate Republicans who would work with Democrats to get laws passed.
“I like to be part of solutions, but you don’t have to compromise your principles to work on solutions,” Isakson said.
The picture Isakson painted of the current state of the federal government was not pretty. A $14 trillion deficit is not sustainable, and it will take sacrifices from every one to get the country back on sound financial footing.
Isakson endorsed many provisions of the bi-partisan debt commission that provided a “blueprint” to help reign in the country’s growing deficit.
First, you have to reform spending, Isakson said.
Second, you’ve got to reform the tax code.
Third, entitlements — specifically Social Security and Medicare — need to streamlined.
And fourth, Isakson said the federal government must reform the way it spends money, and he supported the notion of a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“We have got some tough work to do in this country,” Isakson said, adding that Congress has about nine months to work on these issues before the 2012 elections start heating up in the fall.