By Saxby Chambliss
When I travel around the state of Georgia, I often hear both praise and criticism for my willingness to work across the aisle on major issues facing our country.
Many mistake this bipartisanship for sacrificing my conservative beliefs for the sake of a deal. I've always seen it as the recognition of when to stand your ground, and when to seek common ground.
While my voting record continues to be one of the most conservative in the Senate, I have always believed the best leaders in our nation's history have been the ones who found common ground solutions, while still maintaining their principles.
I was elected as a strong social and fiscal conservative to represent all Georgians. I came to Washington to find solutions to the country's most pressing issues. I made a decision early on in my career that I would not take the politically safe route by sitting on the sidelines. I came to Washington to be a player.
In today's divided government, failure to seek bipartisan solutions on legislation often means doing nothing. Likewise, sometimes taking no action is preferable to passing flawed bills, which is why I voted against immigration reform in 2007 and 2013.
However, with issues such as our nation's growing debt and deficit -- the biggest issue facing our country today -- there are no simple solutions. No party has a monopoly on the good ideas. We can't expect to change the way Washington works unless we can convince elected representatives to hold firm to their principles, but to seek common ground with others. Solutions can't always be found, but these days many folks are not even willing to engage in the process.
I came to Congress in 1994, as a small town lawyer who wanted to get things done. I didn't care if you were an independent, a Republican, or a Democrat. If you and I could work something out that benefited Georgia and our nation, then I wanted to talk to you.
People knew what they got when they elected me: a conservative from Georgia who wanted to make my state and country a better place. That has not, and will not, change. My colleagues across the aisle didn't try to change me, but they did try to find areas where we could agree.
That's how I was able to craft four bipartisan farm bills with colleagues such as former Sen. Blanche Lincoln, saving taxpayers $24 billion in this year's bill, while still providing a safety net for agriculture and the nutritional well-being of low-income Americans.
That's how Sen. Mark Warner and I came to agree that spending cuts, simplifying the tax code, and entitlement reforms had to go hand-in-hand for any deficit reduction deal, changing the focus of our nation's fiscal debate.
And that's how I was able to pass the "Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act' with Sen. Chuck Schumer, and ensure those who defend our freedom and democracy are also afforded the right to participate in it.
I've always found that when you do the right thing, the politics take care of itself. It is high time members of both parties decide our country is more important than any individual career or individual party. It is time to check our political hats at the door and fight for a better, safer America for our children and grandchildren -- before it is too late.
President Franklin Roosevelt once said: "Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country."
In October, America will once again hit the debt-ceiling limit. President Obama and Congress will be presented with another opportunity to solve our nation's fiscal crisis. Let us learn from the debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 and avoid legislative gridlock and partisan posturing.
We are all the stewards of our democracy and America's future. We don't have to sacrifice our core beliefs to find solutions to the problems we face, but we must change the conversation, and begin to work together.