U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, at a senior center in Writghtsville, Ga., in Oct. 2015. (Kevin D. Liles/The New York Times)

Georgia reps look to rebuild clout on Capitol Hill

The House delegation lost 75 years of institutional knowledge during that period, with retirements, promotions or electoral losses taking out five senior Republicans and one Democrat.   

Now the state’s relatively green delegation is aiming to rebuild its stature on Capitol Hill.  

A powerful group of House Republicans on Tuesday awarded Athens-area Congressman Jody Hice a plum assignment on the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Pentagon and defense policy. The Monroe Republican has been angling for the position since he first arrived in Congress in 2015, and his new assignment will give Georgia a second spot on the panel.  

Other Georgia Republicans will also be angling for powerful committee assignments in the year ahead. Drew Ferguson of West Point, a freshman, has been eyeing a position on the tax-writing Ways and Means panel, as has the delegation’s newest member, Karen Handel, R-Roswell. Rick Allen of Evans is looking to join Pooler Republican Buddy Carter on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the energy, health care and manufacturing sectors. 

Nearly half of the House delegation’s 14 members have been sworn in since 2015, and many of them replaced senior lawmakers who had amassed broad power on issues such as agriculture and the military. Delegation leaders have been looking to rebuild in recent years, spreading people out across important committees in order to cover Georgia’s bases on marquee issues such as the water wars, military base closures and transportation funding.  

“Legislating is about relationships and it’s about positioning, and I’m really proud of our delegation,” said Gainesville Republican Doug Collins, who himself has risen to the No. 5 position in GOP leadership.  

Georgia lawmakers have been able to wield power on spending bills and other legislation by sticking together as a group on certain issues. But what still eludes the state’s House Republicans, who meet weekly and call themselves the G-10, is a committee gavel.  

The last was held by Tom Price before he resigned in early 2017 to become President Trump’s health chief. Lawrenceville Republican Rob Woodall campaigned to follow in Price’s footsteps as head of the House Budget Committee, but he was edged out on Tuesday night by Arkansas Republican Steve Womack.  

Collins, meanwhile, indicated he also has his eyes on a promotion next year.  

Bob Goodlatte, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, is retiring at the end of 2018, and Collins’ name has been floated by some as a possible replacement. The former lawyer is not a senior member of the panel, but between his past committee work, fundraising numbers and relationships with House leaders, he is seen as a real contender. 

 “Oh yes, we’re looking into it,” said Collins, who has served in Congress since 2013. “I’ve been very active on Judiciary.”

Georgia’s four Democrats are more senior. All have been in Washington for at least a decade, compared to the senior-most Republican, Tom Graves, who has served less than eight.  

The state’s most junior Democrat announced a move of his own on Tuesday. Hank Johnson of Lithonia is becoming the top Democrat on a House subcommittee with jurisdiction over courts and intellectual property.  

Johnson, a former judge and criminal defense attorney, said he plans to focus on overturning the Trump administration’s net neutrality decision and improving copyright laws.  

"As we work to modernize and streamline our patent and trademark laws and the administration of the U.S. Court system, I look forward to helping Georgia’s and the nation’s businesses grow while at the same time working to protect the rights of creators, artists and inventors," he said.  

Read more: A Georgia guide to Washington for 2018

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...