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Tamar Hallerman

Johnny Isakson defends Nathan Deal’s ‘religious liberty’ veto

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110108 Atlanta: U.S Senator Johnny Isakson, right shakes hands with a patron as Governor elect Nathan Deal gets a hair cut from Thomas Barber Shop owner, Tommy Thomas Saturday January 8, 2011. Brant Sanderlin bsanderlin@ajc.com

U.S Senator Johnny Isakson, right, and then-Governor elect Nathan Deal at Thomas Barber Shop in 2011. Brant Sanderlin bsanderlin@ajc.com

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson backed Nathan Deal’s veto of “religious liberty” legislation two days after the governor’s move generated national headlines.

Plenty of Democrats have praised Deal for his Monday announcement, but few Republicans — much less ones running for re-election for statewide office — have done the same.

“I think the governor did the right thing,” Isakson said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

Isakson underscored his previous remarks that such policy is best considered on the federal level in order to avoid a patchwork approach in the states.

“The best thing to do is leave it for the Constitution and the rights that are guaranteed and any definitions you need to add to that, do it at the congressional level so every state and every business and every individual is operating under the same set of standards,” Isakson said.

The two-term senator said he plans to stay out of the debate about whether the Georgia Legislature should reconvene to try to override Deal’s veto.

“I’m not in the Legislature, so the last thing I’m going to do is comment or quote or tell them what they ought to do. I’m happy to take my job and do my job the best I can, but they were elected to decide on that and I’ll leave that to them,” he said.

On Capitol Hill, both Isakson and fellow Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue are co-sponsors of a federal “religious liberty” bill, known as the First Amendment Defense Act, but Isakson said he’s not expecting action anytime soon given the Senate’s packed schedule for considering government spending bills and an abbreviated pre-election calendar.

“It’s doubtful that it will,” he said, but added that “it always could happen.”

Backers of a companion bill in the U.S. House were closely watching the action in Georgia this week and may choose to move sooner.