Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who angered the tea party by voting in favor of the fiscal cliff deal, is expected to announce that he will not seek re-election to a third term, according to a congressional aide who spoke with the Associated Press.
Chambliss was one of the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Six” working to reach a deficit reduction compromise. The group’s plan for a mix of tax increases and spending cuts did not gain enough support from senators in both parties to succeed.
Chambliss was elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 and became a senator in 2002 after defeating Democratic incumbent Max Cleland, a Vietnam War veteran and triple amputee, in a bitter campaign.
When asked about his plans for 2014 during an interview with Newsmax earlier this week, Chambliss offered no direct indication that he planned to leave office at the end of his second term. But he said, "I’m going through the same process I go through before every re-election cycle and look at the reasons why and why not. I’ve done this every time I’ve been up for re-election and I’ll continue to do that."
Chambliss set off threats of a tea party primary challenge with his efforts to reach a bipartisan compromise on controversial budget issues, which included a call for tax rate increases on the wealthy. Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer delivered on those threats in a CNN interview on Jan. 3.
“I can tell you I live in the state of Georgia and Saxby Chambliss is going to be primaried,” she told CNN. “It’s unacceptable to have somebody who votes with the Democrats more than they do with the conservatives, and he has proven time and time again he’s all about the spending.”
In the Newsmax interview, Chambliss insisted he was not concerned about a challenge from within his own party.
“I don’t worry about that," he said. "What I do worry about is doing my job and doing what the people in my state want me to do, and that is to come to Washington to make the hard and tough decisions that, frankly, some of these people who are mentioned as running against me, obviously, have not been willing to make.”
Among those who have expressed an interest in challenging Chambliss are U.S. Reps. Tom Price and Paul Broun, both Republican doctors.
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson also has threatened to mount a primary challenge. After Chambliss dismissed concerns about violating Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, Erickson, a Georgia native, told CNN, "Back in December of 2008, I wrote that Chambliss found himself in a runoff because he sided with every bad compromise from immigration to energy, to the farm bill to the bailouts.”
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