During U.S. congressional recess, senators and representatives leave Washington, D.C. and return home to meet with constituents. On Oct. 9, Georgia Sen. David Perdue made a stop at the University of Georgia, where he spoke to a group of about 90, the UGA chapter of College Republicans.
Perdue discussed his views on the Republican party’s progress, the economy and trade talks with China. He also mentioned his decision to become a senator and the way he sees politics today.
Despite having served in the Senate for five years and being a close ally of President Donald Trump, Perdue said he never wanted to be in politics.
“I’m just a business guy,” Perdue, who ran in 2014 as a political outsider, said. “I don’t understand politics.”
He described what he perceives as the original purpose the founders had in mind for Congress.
“They did not envision the career politician,” Perdue said.
Perdue struck a bipartisan tone when he said he still values his relationship with Michelle Nunn, the Democratic philanthropic executive with whom he fought a tough first senate campaign in 2014.
“Michelle and I today are great friends, and that’s what America’s supposed to be about,” Perdue said. “I don’t care what your political beliefs are, but whoever said we had to hate each other if we happen to disagree on a single issue?”
Perdue encouraged students to think of themselves as more than “a monolithic political position” and instead decide where they stand on social, fiscal, economic and religious issues.
“I believe we have a discourse problem in Washington, where we're losing the ability to compromise,” Perdue said. “And that bothers me.”
Junior public relations major Hannah Payne praised Perdue’s message.
“Often politics can feel so polarizing, but the Senator’s message of the importance of working together, crossing the aisle and learning from one another to strengthen your own ideas is encouraging to hear from those representing us,” Payne said.
While Perdue isn’t part of trade conversations with China, he recently visited the country with Montana Sen. Steve Daines to meet with various Chinese officials, including China’s chief negotiator Liu He.
There are significant cultural differences between China and the United States, Perdue said, and he highlighted a need to be sensitive toward these differences in terms of how China reacts to changes that may come after the trade deal.
“China is an opportunity to make the world better,” Perdue said. “They are someone to contend with, and the way to do that is to get this trade deal done.”
Perdue said he was hopeful there would be “a partial bill before Christmas.” The trade talks between the countries have become strained as increased tariffs were placed on Chinese imports — China has responded by increasing its own tariffs on U.S. goods. Financial markets have also suffered from the inability to reach a deal.
College Republicans chairman Ethan Pender was excited to have Senator Perdue speak to the group.
“I just hope that people took away that Senator Perdue is a real conservative fighter,” Pender said. “He's out here fighting for Georgia, fighting for everything that the College Republicans believe in.”
In the last 100 years, Republicans have never held a supermajority in the Senate, Perdue explained. Perdue said bringing in an outsider like Trump has allowed for economic growth.
“We spent tens of trillions of dollars trying to solve this thing called poverty, and here we have two and a half years and two and a half million people's lives have been changed because we're growing the economy,” Perdue said.
Perdue touted restricting regulations and passing energy legislation, the 2017 tax cuts and a bipartisan effort to repeal parts of the Dodd-Frank Act concerning regulatory requirements on community banks that he and former Sen. Claire McCaskill introduced.
Perdue also said, though, that he sees pressing problems that need addressing, including labor, immigration and infrastructure.
Purdue will face a Democratic challenger in his 2020 re-election campaign. Several candidates are vying for the nomination — former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, former Lieutenant Governor candidate and businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico, and former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff.