Early signs the Republican Senate could embrace Sally Quillian Yates at DOJ

The Department of Justice has been a huge political target for Republicans in the Obama era, from immigration to gun policy.

While Yates' husband is a former Democratic candidate who has long donated to the party's contenders, she has put away big names from both sides of the aisle as a prosecutor.

Yates helped build the case against ex-Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, a Democrat who was convicted of tax evasion charges, as well as fraud charges against former Republican Georgia schools superintendent Linda Schrenko.

Her track record and experience is one reason Sen. Johnny Isakson is among her fans. Isakson told The Wall Street Journal that "she will have my full support.”

Isakson's future colleague, Senate-elect David Perdue, said in a statement he was "pleased" Obama looked to Georgia to find a new Justice Department leader. But he stopped short of a full-throated  endorsement.

"I have heard very positive things about Ms. Yates, and I look forward to meeting with her personally before her nomination comes to the Senate Judiciary Committee," he said in a statement.

Yates is set to be the top deputy to Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, who was nominated to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder a few weeks ago. The Senate is expected to consider both early next year, and if confirmed, it would be the first time two females lead the office.

Yates' husband, Comer, has a long political track record. He lost bids for Congress as a Democrat in 1994 and 1996 and has donated to Democratic candidates, including Michelle Nunn's Senate bid. He now serves as director of the renowned Atlanta Speech School.

Yates, 54, oversaw a string of high-profile cases since she took office in 2010, including the prosecution of four suspected members of a north Georgia militia linked to a bizarre terror plot.

Here's a bit more of her back story from a 2009 story on her prosecutorial career:

Yates graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1986 and worked for the Atlanta law firm King & Spalding before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office in 1989. Five years later, she became the chief of the office's fraud and public corruption unit, and in 2002 she became a top aide to the U.S. Attorney.

She handled some of the office's most high-profile cases as she rose through the ranks, including the 2006 trial of Campbell, who was convicted of tax evasion charges. Campbell was sentenced to 30 months in prison after an eight-week trial.

Yates also played a key role on the team of prosecutors that investigated the aftermath of the 1996 Olympic Park Bombing, which eventually led them to Eric Robert Rudolph, who pleaded guilty to four bombings in exchange for life sentences without parole.

She oversaw the fraud case against former state schools superintendent Linda Schrenko and handled dozens of public corruption and fraud cases. Schrenko, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison in 2006 on charges of stealing more than $600,000 in federal education money.

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Ellijay activist Joe McCutchen was one of Mitt Romney's loudest supporters two years ago, going on the Jon Stewart Show to proclaim himself the Massachusetts Republican's biggest fan.

He won't be backing a Romney 3.0 bid.

"My goal is to be on Comedy Central as Ted Cruz's number one supporter. I like Mitt. I think he's more conservative than [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie. I think he would still get more conservative vote than [Jeb] Bush and Christie. But I don't think he's near as conservative as Ted Cruz."

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U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, appeared on CSPAN's Newsmakers on Sunday morning to talk about his plans for the new year.

One big tool that the all-Republican Congress will have is a budget "reconciliation"  measure that cannot be filibustered in the Senate. The Democrats used it to pass Obamacare, but Price would not commit on whether the GOP could use it to repeal the law.

"It's possible that we can repeal or replace or improve some things in Obamacare through reconciliation. Whether or not we can repeal the entire law itself is a point that's still under question."

The Paul Ryan budget garnered headlines for its proposal to move Medicare to a voucher-type "premium support" system -- which Price will re-up -- but it skirted changes to political third rail Social Security. Price hopes the 2015 budget will address it, but these and other questions will likely be worked out at congressional Republicans' retreat in January in Hershey, Pa.

"We certainly need to talk about it because, again, Social Security as it's currently constructed is going broke, going bankrupt. ... It's part of the discussion. I'm hopeful that we will be able to address it."

At the end of the program, Wall Street Journal reporter Damian Paletta noted the huge political ramifications for Price's work this spring. Said Paletta:

"The most important thing about the Ryan budget was how it became the Republican Party de facto platform heading into the 2012 election. And it will probably be, whoever the Republican nominee is probably will be tethered to this Tom Price budget going into 2016 unless they vehemently disagree with it.

"Democrats used the Ryan budget like a weapon in the 2012 election and they were largely successful trying to get a lot of senior citizens worked up about the changes to Medicare and the cuts to domestic programs like education and other things. ...

"There's going to be a lot of these Republican potential candidates for president watching closely to see what works, what might blow up in Tom Price's face, especially if there's like a Republican revolt on the House or Senate floor."

Left unsaid was that Ryan was the 2012 vice presidential nominee, so it was a little easier to make that connection. Price is not on any veep lists that we know of, but it's early yet.

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U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, is challenging President Barack Obama on new EPA regulations on carbon emissions.

Bishop led a letter to Obama along with Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., urging Obama to withdraw a proposed rule limiting carbon emissions from existing power plants. Wrote the congressmen:

"This proposal is an unprecedented attempt by the EPA to change the way we generate, transmit and consume energy in the United States by asserting new regulatory authorities over state electricity decision-making."

A total of 99 members signed on -- the vast majority were Republicans -- and Bishop was the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus on the missive.

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Politico took a look at the ramifications of an SEC Primary on the 2016 presidential race. From the piece:

The joint primary, which appears increasingly likely to happen, would present a crucial early test for Republican White House hopefuls among the party’s most conservative voters.

It could, in theory, boost a conservative alternative to a Republican who has emerged as the establishment favorite from the four states that kick off the nominating process. But one risk is that the deep-red complexion of the Southern states’ primary electorates would empower a candidate who can’t win in general election battlegrounds like Ohio and Colorado.

But Georgia Pundit's Todd Rehm argues in Townhall.com that the huge March 1 playing field actually favors an establishment candidate:

Many within the socially conservative wing of the GOP see a Southern Super Tuesday as a way to put their own stamp on the eventual nominee. But it also means that no candidate can take all of the delegates by winning slim majorities in these states. If the field has fewer “establishment” candidates by this time, it could mean that social conservatives and libertarian-leaning voters spread their votes more thinly among a number of non-establishment candidates.

Florida, with the second-largest number of delegates in the geographic South, has a less distinctly Southern flavor than most of the others, and along with Texas may have a “favorite son” candidate or two.

The large number of delegates available across the swath of the South will place a premium on the ability to organize and fund multiple statewide organizations covering many square miles, also playing to the strength of an established candidate or an heir to a political dynasty.

Finally, the March 1 states include a large number of expensive media markets – 3 of the top ten in Dallas-Ft Worth, Atlanta, and Houston; nine of the top thirty most-expensive – playing to deep pockets and requiring mountains of cash to compete.

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Roll Call spotted Rep.-elect Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, shuffling around a nearly empty Capitol on Friday, as both chambers had already gone home for the holidays:

Incoming Rep. Barry Loudermilk said he was surprised anybody at all was on Capitol Hill on Dec. 19, the last Friday before Christmas.

The Georgia Republican, who had returned to the gift shop in the Longworth House Office Building hoping to retrieve some misplaced paperwork, told CQ Roll Call he was only around to do a bit of housekeeping in advance of the first day of the 114th Congress in January.

He hadn’t seen any colleagues at the Capitol Hill Club, the GOP social spot across the street; he knew Rep.-elect Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., was around somewhere, as he’d seen his car parked nearby.

It's unclear whether Loudermilk was purchasing gifts for his next door neighbor in the Cannon House Office Building: Nancy Pelosi.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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