U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) participated in a town hall meeting Thursday in Georgia College’s Magnolia Ballroom.
The Marietta resident Congressman entered politics in 1974 and served 17 years in the Georgia Legislature and two years as chairman of the Georgia Board of Education. In 1999, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the first of three terms before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He was re-elected to the Senate in 2010.
The Milledgeville community, GC students and faculty engaged Isakson on a variety of topics affecting both the state a federal political climate.
• Government surveillance
Isakson said the federal government “threaded the needle” between personal rights and national security after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The resulting Patriot Act allows National Security Agencies to monitor telecommunication and digital communications to snuff out potential terrorist activity and mobilization.
“You don’t have but a split second in this technological world,” Isakson said. “We had to provide American security agents the ability to do their job, while providing citizens health, safety and privacy. I voted for the Patriot Act. I understand people that have problems with it.”
The U.S. senator cited an incident averted at Georgia Tech three years ago where two students were using Tech computers to communicate to a terror network in Pakistan.
Both men were arrested and sentenced to prison within the last six months.
“It’s a delicate balance. You’ve always got to be vigilant protecting the health and welfare while also protecting the constitution,” he added.
• Appropriations gridlock
The senator said the national debt is the largest problem.
“We have too much deficit, and we have government expenses that are out of control,” he said.
Isakson said 1995 was the last year both the U.S. Senate and House passed all 12 appropriations bills and the president signed a budget ratified by each.