WASHINGTON -- Georgia's retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss delivered his farewell speech today, followed by a series of tear-inducing tributes from colleagues.
The Republican went through the litany of thank-yous to friends, family, staff, constituents and America's soldiers. About some of his closest pals, Chambliss said:
"My three best buddies from my House days, Speaker John Boehner, Congressman Tom Latham, and Senator Richard Burr, along with Senator Tom Coburn have been legislative collaborators, dinner partners, golfing buddies, confidantes, and numerous other things that should not be mentioned on the floor of the United States Senate.
“Senator Graham is like a member of my family. We have traveled the world together many times learning a lot. I have no plans to write a book, but if I did Lindsey Graham anecdotes would fill a chapter."
Among his parting thoughts was a plea to Senate Republicans to undo the "nuclear option" rules change allowing some presidential nominees to clear "cloture" with 51 votes instead of 60. And he hoped that some future Congress will be able to accomplish what he and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., could not finish on the national debt.
“As Simpson-Bowles, Domenici-Rivlin, and Gang of Six agreed, it will take a combination of spending reduction, entitlement reform, and tax reform to stimulate more revenue. Hard and tough votes will have to be taken, but that is why we get elected to the United States Senate. The world is waiting for America to lead on this issue and if we do, the U.S. economy will respond in a very robust way. The Gang of Six laid the foundation for this problem to be solved, and it is my hope we do not leave the solution for the next generation."
A cavalcade of senators from both parties followed. Here's his fellow Georgia Republican and close friend Johnny Isakson:
“Georgia has had some great senators. Richard Russell, really the master of the Senate; Zell Miller, the former governor of Georgia, a friend of mine and mentor to our state; and Sam Nunn, one of the finest in national defense and foreign policy our state ever offered.
“Saxby will be the fourth on the Mount Rushmore of Georgia senators who served Georgia with distinction and with class."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been Chambliss' counterpart on the Intelligence Committee and praised his easygoing personality: "It will be hard to see you go."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., earlier in the day shared tales of Chambliss' encounters with a couple of vice presidents:
“How courageous is Saxby? He accepted an invitation to go quail hunting with Vice President Cheney — and lived to tell the tale.
“The Senior Senator from South Carolina remembers the trip well. He had to be persuaded by Saxby to come. He still suspects Saxby’s real motive was to give Cheney a second target.
“It wasn’t the only time Saxby’s cheated death with a Vice President.
“Lindsey recalls a meeting in Baghdad with Saxby, Joe Biden, and the Iraqi Prime Minister. Afterward, they boarded a plane — and came under fire.
“Here’s what Saxby said: ‘I guess the meeting didn’t go that well.’"
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., revealed an important reason that retirement beckons for the 71-year-old Chambliss: "He'll have a tee time at Augusta whenever he wants."
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, brought up Chambliss' hole-in-one with President Barack Obama. Earlier this week, the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe got Chambliss to reveal a bit about Obama's game and defend him from criticism that he golfs too much:
Now that he’s leaving Congress, Chambliss is willing to dish a little bit about the president’s skills: “I know what he said his handicap is. He didn’t play his handicap.”
So what should Obama work on?
“Well, he plays left handed,” Chambliss said. That day, “He just had a bad duck hook. Some days I have a bad slice, he had a bad duck hook. I empathize with him.”
But Chambliss doesn’t fault Obama for golfing as often as he does.
“You can argue about whether or not sometimes it was appropriate to leave a press conference and go to the golf course – that’s another issue,” he said. But, “People have to understand that the job of being President of the United States is so pressure-packed, it’s the toughest job in the world and every president deserves a means to relieve that pressure.”