On Monday — his 71st birthday — U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he got good news on his health. The senator, who announced earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, had a checkup and got a “100 percent sign-off, no problems whatsoever,” he said.
That means a good start for the impending new year, one that will see Isakson run for re-election and a third term as senator.
The 2015 legislative year, meanwhile, featured one of the biggest projects for Georgia that Isakson has seen in his public life: the Savannah Harbor deepening. The senator said getting President Barack Obama to include funds for that project in the recently passed budget secures its future.
“That’s huge for Georgia and huge for southeast Georgia,” Isakson said.
The past year also saw Isakson accomplish his legislation calling for significant compensation for the Americans held hostage in Iran from 1979-81. Three of the hostages were from Georgia. Compensation had been held up by the Algiers Accords, which forbade America from suing Iran for the money.
“It’s long overdue, but well-deserved,” Isakson said.
That legislation was part of the budget bill passed earlier this month, which also included $665 billion in tax cuts in next five years. Isakson said he was pleased with the budget in terms of tax policy, stating that in terms of relief and incentives, it’s probably the biggest package in which he has participated.
While the Senate did more this year than the other six years of the Obama administration, Isakson said, there were some goals that fell short. Expansion of the Keystone Pipeline was vetoed by the president, as was a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Isakson said that the efforts will continue to repeal the ACA, also known as “Obamacare,” which he said is “imploding on its own” with rate hikes and the closing of insurance cooperatives.
One thing that also did not get repealed was the Waters of the United States rule, which says the federal government has jurisdiction over pretty much any water on any property — even “a puddle left over because of a rainstorm,” Isakson said. He said that rule hurts agriculture and construction, and it’s an issue that should be left up to local control.
Also in terms of the environment, Isakson said he is all for a clean environment and carbon reduction, but felt the president overreached with new regulations for the coal industry. Isakson said those regulations have been bad for prosperity and the electrical grid, and would like to see them rolled back.
Echoing Carter, Isakson cited national security as a major priority for 2016. The senator said he would like to see a stronger policy with regard to the Middle East in order to root out terrorists. He added, “You cannot live in a world where you accommodate or tolerate or try to just contain radical Islam.”
“The more committed we are to eradication of ISIL, the safer our children and grandchildren and our country will be,” the senator said, using another acronym for Islamic State.
Isakson said he would like to see a change in the direction of the National Labor Relations Board in the wake of its ruling that, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, established “any company that reserves the right to influence employment conditions over workers hired by a contractor is a joint employer, even if it never exercises that right or only does so indirectly.” Isakson said the ruling tries to suppress small businesses.
“That was a terrible, terrible ruling and will continue to be,” Isakson said.
With the election year coming up — and already wild presidential campaigning on both sides — Isakson said it promises to be “one heck of a presidential race.” Isakson has his re-election bid in full swing, saying his campaign has raised $5 million in the last year and the campaign staff has been hired.
“We’re ready to go, whatever comes,” he said.
A representative for Sen. David Purdue did not respond to an interview request by the News before the Wednesday press deadline.