What Others Are Saying

Town Hall
May 30, 2006

Isakson out front on border security, tax reform
By Jeff Emanuel

At a time when ever-increasing government spending, slow movement on tax reform, and arguments for an amnesty-first immigration policy have revealed the dearth of true conservatives in Washington, Georgia's junior Senator Johnny Isakson has been a pleasant surprise.

Thought by many to be too moderate to adequately represent the red state of Georgia, Isakson was faced with a very difficult battle in the 2004 Republican primary against conservative African-American businessman Herman Cain. However, since being elected to the Senate eighteen months ago, he has sought to lead from the front on a host of conservative issues. Two of the best examples of this are his work on immigration and on taxation.

On February 22, Isakson and Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) led a Congressional delegation to the U.S.-Mexico border. In San Diego, they toured a recently discovered tunnel stretching from Tijuana, Mexico, to a warehouse in southern California. At the time of its discovery earlier this year, the tunnel had two tons of marijuana in it, and its structure included water pumps, lighting, and an air ventilation system. Isakson also witnessed the Border Patrol's detection of a pickup truck with a false bed concealing 13 illegals attempting to enter the United States.

Following this eye-opening experience, Isakson introduced legislation in the Senate aimed at providing increased manpower, equipment and technology to secure the U.S. border and to curb the inflow of illegal immigrants. "I observed firsthand the fantastic progress we're making in securing our borders in San Diego and in Arizona," he said, "and the keys to this progress are the exact kinds of manpower and technology that I am calling for in this legislation for the entire 2,000 miles of our southern border."

He has repeatedly voiced concern and disappointment over the Senate's unwillingness to put border security first, and in April he penned an op-ed for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer in which he stressed the need for proper border security before any further steps are taken on the immigration issue.

Isakson's response to the president's May 15 immigration address was to call for a more permanent solution than the placement of largely transient National Guard troops on the border. Citing his opinion that "the Senate is too focused on guest worker programs and not enough on border security," he introduced an amendment the next day, which would have modified any immigration reform bill to require that the Department of Homeland Security certify that the border is secure before a guest worker program can be instituted.

The amendment, which he had introduced for the first time in March, was unfortunately defeated by a vote of 55-40. However, according to a representative for the senator, some House leaders are saying that Isakson's "border security first" policy may be the best way to bridge the gap between the House and the Senate when the immigration reform bill goes to conference.

On the subject of taxes, Isakson has done a good job of being a conservative voice of reason. He is a staunch supporter of making President Bush's tax cuts permanent, and is a vocal opponent of the capital gains tax, which he calls a "major barrier to economic growth." His 2005 voting record earned him the "Taxpayers' Friend Award" from the National Taxpayers Union.

Isakson has frequently voiced his belief that "the time has come to pursue fundamental changes" to the tax system. A proponent of analyzing several propositions and implementing the best system for Americans, Isakson is a co-sponsor of the Fair Tax bill (introduced by his fellow Senator from Georgia, Saxby Chambliss) and the Flat Tax bill. He also introduced the Tax Code Termination Act, which would "repeal the U.S. tax code and create a commission charged with reporting to Congress plausible reform options." The commission's tasks would include "[reviewing] the current tax code" and "[considering] whether the income tax should be replaced with a flat tax or a national sales tax." It would also "identify the transition costs associated with any change to the present federal tax code," and would "be required to report on the potential impact of such recommendations on the U.S. economy and on the government's ability to collect revenue."

The Act would terminate the current tax code on December 31, 2008, because, in Isakson's words, "history has taught us that if we don't impose a deadline and terminate the tax code by a date certain, overhauling our inefficient system is nearly impossible."

Isakson has been a satisfyingly consistent voice for conservative values since arriving in the Senate eighteen months ago. Regardless of whether or not his proposals on immigration and taxation are eventually adopted by the rest of Congress, it is good to know that, in this time of Republicans moderating their stances on key issues, there may still be a core of conservatives in Washington who are willing to stick to their beliefs rather than to seek political expediency, and who are willing to lead from the front on subjects that matter to the people of their states, and of America.

Jeff Emanuel, a highly decorated military veteran, is a senior at the University of Georgia where he is the Public Relations Director for the UGA College Republicans.