A year after his election, it’s harder for U.S. Sen. David Perdue to wield the “outsider” image that helped elevate him above a crowded Republican primary and fueled his victory over a well-funded Democratic opponent. But as his speech Monday at The Atlanta Press Club showed, he’s still trying.
Perdue railed against a “dysfunctional” and “distracted” Washington that’s failed to address the long-term implications of national debt that tops $17 trillion and expensive government programs that he said have had little impact. And both parties, he said, are complicit.
“Washington is a very sobering place,” he said, launching into an old joke about the perils of D.C. politics.
“You’re on the floor of the Senate and you’re looking around and seeing these icons. You think, ‘How did I get there.’ And after six months, you look around and say, ‘How did they get there?’” he said to laughter.
He laid much of the blame at the feet of the Obama administration, which he said has turned to regulators to create a fourth branch of government, and to Senate Democrats, whom he described as too eager to block compromise attempts.
But he said fellow Republicans – though he singled none out – were also responsible for failing to embrace long-term plans to reduce the national debt and eliminate or cut costly, but popular, programs.
“There are no innocent players in Washington. Both sides are guilty, both sides are responsible for the catastrophe we have now,” he said, adding: “These sweeping national federal programs are not cheap and they have failed. The poverty rate is the same as it was – down to the same decimal point – as it was since the Great Society was launched.”
He said one way to begin changing the status quo is to “deal with” the retirement age for future Social Security recipients, though he offered no specifics. The age for recipients to receive full benefits is to rise to 67, though some analysts have called for it to rise higher.
Perdue said he's most alarmed at the lack of debate on the presidential stage about the debt, and he questioned why many Republican presidential candidates have not seized on the topic.
My mission in life is to try to get these presidential candidates to talk about the national catastrophe of the national debt,” he said. “In 13 hours of debate how many questions have focused on the debt? Zero.”
After the speech, he said his message for fellow Republicans is to “get refocused on the priorities.”
“In the Senate we’ve got back to regular order and got a lot of work done,” he said. “We just need to get the debt as one of the top priorities we deal with every day.”