Saxby Chambliss to return to Senate to vouch for Sonny Perdue

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Senator Johnny Isakson, left, then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, center, and then-Sen. Saxby Chambliss in 2005. (W.A. BRIDGES JR./AJC staff)

WASHINGTON — Saxby Chambliss is plotting his return to the U.S. Senate — for a day, at least.

The Georgia Republican, who retired after 20 years on Capitol Hill in 2015, will be making a cameo Thursday on behalf of Sonny Perdue during the former governor’s confirmation hearing.

Perdue boosters believe Chambliss’ appearance before his former colleagues on the Senate Agriculture Committee will provide some extra gravitas as Perdue makes the case that he should run the $150 billion a year Department of Agriculture, or USDA.

“I know the committee well and I know Sonny well, and it’s an opportunity for me to kind of showcase a member of our political establishment that came into office at the same time I did,” Chambliss said in an interview Tuesday.

 



 

He said he plans to use his testimony to discuss Perdue’s Georgia accomplishments, such as introducing improved and more efficient technology to state government, and how those skills could be applied at the roughly 106,000-member department.

Chambliss will be undertaking the ceremonial role alongside U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, ahead of Perdue’s own testimony to the committee.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, indicated he may be keeping his distance on Thursday.

The junior senator has provided a lot of behind-the-scenes support to his first cousin in recent weeks, loaning the former governor office space, staff volunteers and a place to crash in his D.C. apartment. But unlike U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who introduced then-colleague Tom Price during his Senate confirmation hearings, Perdue is tentatively planning to stay on the opposite side of the dais as his cousin arrives.

“He’s got two people that are going to introduce him that morning and I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to do that,” Perdue said Tuesday. “But we haven’t finalized anything yet.”

Perdue said he’s not opposed to asking his cousin some tough questions.

“I’ve got the best questions of anybody in here,” the senator said with a laugh. “I’ve known this guy my whole life.”

Perdue’s hearing begins at 10 a.m. Thursday and can be live-streamed on agriculture.senate.gov. Check back to Political Insider for updates throughout the week.

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