As Published in the Savannah Morning News
JOHNNY ISAKSON is expected to announce next week that he’s running for a third term in the U.S. Senate in two years.
That’s good news for Georgia Republicans.
The 69-year-old senator, who would be on the ballot in 2016, has a record as a steady-handed, fiscal conservative who understands the proper role of the federal government.
He has earned the respect of senators on both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately, he and other Republican senators have been under thumb of Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid. This has limited Mr. Isakson’s effectiveness and essentially made the Senate a do-nothing chamber.
Things should dramatically change in January, when Republicans make up the majority and Majority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell takes charge. As a two-term senator who has gained the trust of his peers on matters like finance, veteran affairs, health and labor, Mr. Isakson is likely to shoulder more responsibilities in crafting and pushing needed legislation.
One specific bill that makes good sense is one Mr. Isakson has backed for years — moving the federal government to a two-year budget cycle. Annual budget fights have turned Washington into a never-ending donnybrook — with taxpayers winding up on the short end. A biennial budgeting bill, which would allow for only minor corrections during off years, should provide for more time to think and to plan before spending the public’s money.
Mr. Isakson has championed the cause of deepening Savannah’s harbor and continues to fight to secure federal funds for this needed project. One issue he needs to push harder on, however, is enacting federal workplace safety rules regarding combustible dust.
Six years have passed since 14 workers perished in a preventable explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth caused by sugar dust. Mr. Isakson serves on a Senate committee that could help prevent similar workplace catastrophes in the future. He and other lawmakers must get on the stick.
Had Democrats remained in control of the Senate after the Nov. 4 midterms, it wouldn’t have been a surprise had Mr. Isakson opted not to run again. Senators should want to make a difference. Not warm a seat.
Politically, Mr. Isakson is doing his party and a favor by announcing that he’s shooting for six more years. It likely spares the GOP of an expensive, potentially messy primary fight, similar to the one that occurred this year after Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss decided not to run again.
Democrats will take notice, too. Prominent Dems who might have been thinking about running for this seat will now think twice.
Of course, a lot can happen in two years. And 2016 is a presidential election year, which typically means an increase in Democratic voters.
But Mr. Isakson isn’t the kind of Republican senator — like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul — who’s a lightening rod. So if any thunderbolts strike Congress, don’t expect Mr. Isakson to be among those who could get burned.
The fact that he’s going for a third term also suggests that his health is fine and the fire in his belly still burns. That’s good news, too.