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Public Statements

CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript

Interview

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Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss, he's joining us now from Washington to talk about tonight's State of the Union Address.

Senator, very nice to see you. Glad you could join us here.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Thanks, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: We're going to see all of you guys together in the chamber. It's a formal occasion. The president's going to lay out the state of the union here.

People look at this year and they look beyond this election, and they still see Washington gridlock. They say, 'why can't Congress get more done?'

How do you plan to personally try to break through some of that and actually work with those across the aisle to move legislation forward?

CHAMBLISS: Well, first of all, Suzanne, you've got to have leadership coming from the top. And frankly, there's been a void in basically every area out there. And I hope tonight that the president says, look, we're in a tough election year, but there's still major things that we need to accomplish that are important to the American people and important to our country.

And if he will take the initiative, I think it will help. Otherwise, there's a continuous process here in the Senate of trying to work on both sides of the aisle.

People are reaching across. Senator Warner and I worked very closely on the debt and the deficit issue. We're going to continue that work.

Our base is very broad out there from a bipartisan standpoint, from a war on terror standpoint. Senator Feinstein and I -- I'm the vice chairman of the Intel Committee, she's the chairman -- we see eye to eye on almost every issue. And when we have differences, we're able to really work them out for the most part.

So those types of things have worked very well, from my perspective, and I look forward to continuing to work with both Republicans and Democrats and with the White House if they will engage.

MALVEAUX: Senator, I mean, I guess both sides want to do that, but listening to you now, it would sound like everything is working well in Washington. And so many people in this country really believe that members of Congress are not doing their jobs. You have one of the lowest percentage of approval rates in a long, long time.

Is there something that you can point to specifically that you think your party could do a better job of reaching out to Democrats?

CHAMBLISS: Well, I don't know that I can say that there is one specific area that Republicans are somewhat dilatory in when it comes to trying to work things out. You know, there are any number of issues, reaching from energy to housing to the war on terror, where we have seen cooperation to a certain extent.

The problem is -- and the American people are justified, frankly, in their opinion about the gridlock in Washington right now, because at the end of the day, what is the result? And the result has been, we simply haven't accomplished a whole lot.

I mean, gee whiz, we could not even get the extension of the unemployment and the payroll tax with the Keystone pipeline in it at the end of the year for 12 months. We could only get it extended for two months. There's something wrong in this town, and we've got to keep working at it until we get it right.

MALVEAUX: And how do you do that? Because Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, she's going to be there tonight, and it was that terrible attack against her when she was shot in the head. She's going to be at the State of the Union. This is really the last act, if you will, before she resigns to focus on her recovery there.

But you guys made a pledge to work together, to put some of this ugliness behind after that tragedy. Why hasn't the tone changed in Washington?

CHAMBLISS: Well, it has changed somewhat, but you have to understand, too, Suzanne, that these are not black and white issues. These are very complex issues.

These are issues that require not only a lot of debate, but a lot of thought going into it to make sure that we do it right. And whether it's cybersecurity, which we're working on now -- and frankly, we're working on in a bipartisan way, and a bicameral way -- we're engaging with the House on this issue, and that is a critical issue. And I expect the president to give some detail on that issue tonight.

MALVEAUX: All right. And Senator, I have to ask you before you go, do you have a date tonight as well? I know they're paring Democrats and Republicans together, to sit together. Do you have somebody that you're sitting with?

CHAMBLISS: I'll be honest with you, Suzanne, I've been in a classified hearing all morning. I just got back into town this morning, and I frankly haven't given that much thought, but enjoyed sitting with Senator Warner last year. And who knows where I'll be tonight? We'll be there.

MALVEAUX: All right. You let us know if you find a date, a Democratic date.

CHAMBLISS: OK.

MALVEAUX: We appreciate it. All right. Thanks again, Senator.

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