WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 03: Outgoing House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) presents Speaker of the House designate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) with a gavel before she is sworn in sworn in during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2019 in Washington, DC. Under the cloud of a partial federal government shutdown, Pelosi will reclaim her former title as Speaker of the House and her fellow Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives for the second time in eight years. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Jolt: Attempted health care rollback cost GOP the U.S. House, top Republican says

In print editions of today’s AJC, you’ll see a column on the changing attitude of Georgia Republicans toward the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. Or waivers.

“We don’t care if they call it manna from heaven. Whatever works for them,” one wag at the state Capitol told us.

In that article, we note that Georgia’s business community, to a large degree, has been responsible for the shift, by recognizing that adequate access to health care is foundational to economic development, especially in rural portions of the state.

But electoral politics has also played a role. In last year’s race for governor, Republican Brian Kemp’s 50.22 percent victory can be traced, at least in part, to Democrat Stacey Abrams’ constant refrain that Georgia was giving up $8 million in federal dollars every day because of its refusal to expand Medicaid coverage.

With control of the Legislature at stake in the 2020 election, many Republicans would like to see health care taken off the table as a rallying issue for Democrats, we theorized.

This is not just local sentiment. We posted that piece at 5:41 p.m. Tuesday. Four minutes earlier, the Washington Post had put up an article that began thusly:

Speaking privately to his donors, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy squarely blamed Republican losses in last year’s midterm elections on the GOP push to roll back health insurance protections for people with preexisting conditions — and in turn blamed his party’s right flank.

McCarthy’s comments, made in a Feb. 6 conference call from which The Washington Post obtained partial recordings, represent a vindication of Democratic efforts to elevate health care as an issue in last year’s campaign. And in singling out the House Freedom Caucus, the remarks threaten to rekindle internal resentments inside the House Republican Conference.

***

On Monday, the name of former state House member Buzz Brockway was being floated as a potential GOP candidate for the Seventh District congressional seat being vacated by Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville. But on his Facebook page this morning, Brockway said he’s decided against a run. In part:

[A]fter prayer and conversations with my family, I have decided not to run for the 7th Congressional district. This is not the right time for me to run for Congress. There are a couple of good candidates considering running - friends whom I would be proud to support.

***

Doug Richards of 11Alive points us to Senate Bill 81, which by his calculations would raise the $17,000-a-year salaries of state lawmakers by 300 percent.

The measure was introduced this week by Valencia Seay of Riverdale, a Democrat, so one is tempted to say that it has no future in a GOP-controlled chamber. However, the fourth signature on the bill belongs to Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, the chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee.

The bill is designed so that, in theory, legislators wouldn’t have to ask for future raises. Automation would be involved:

“For each biennial session, each member of the General Assembly shall receive an annual salary in an amount equal to the median annual household income for citizens of the State of Georgia as calculated by the American Community Survey of the United States Census for the year immediately preceding the beginning of each biennial session as determined by the state auditor which take effect on the convening of the General Assembly for such biennial session in each odd-numbered year.”

***

While lawmakers deliberated at the state Capitol on Tuesday, a separate drama unfolded across the street.

Our AJC colleague Rodney Ho picked up on a TMZ report that former “Daily Show” correspondent Jordan Klepper was arrested at the Board of Regents office.

Klepper and others were demonstrating against a state’s policy that denies in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. Authorities say the nine were arrested after they started chanting, locked arms and refused to leave. 

***

Our AJC colleague Mark Niesse has filed this report on HB 191, which would reduce the number of signatures required for candidates to seek office. Georgia has some of the most restrictive ballot-access laws in the country.

***

Stacey Abrams for president? Though her allies keep pushing the possibility, we’ve seen little evidence that she’s seriously considering a run, and disadvantages abound. For one, she is far behind the growing field of Democratic candidates when it comes to lining up donors, staffers and activists. And she’d face competition in every lane: There are already candidates running as pragmatists, feminists, progressives - you name it. The folks at FiveThirtyEight delved deeper into the issue:

[I]n a national campaign, Abrams could not necessarily bank on carrying African-Americans, who have been her base in Georgia, since voters may have a dozen candidates to choose from, including at least two other black candidates, one of whom is a woman

And despite her fame, Abrams has never won an election for any office higher than state representative; it would be unprecedented for a career politician to earn the party nomination with so little experience. 

Abrams’s most challenging obstacle may not even be specific to her. In such a crowded primary field, even a front-runner is more likely to lose than to win. 

If it’s any consolation, a poll conducted by the consulting firm Bold Blue Campaigns found that 5 percent of likely Democratic primary voters would support Abrams if the presidential nominating contest were held today. It’s early, so take this with several grains of salt, but she came in behind Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke in the poll but ahead of Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and several others.

***

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed its largest public lands package in years last night. The bill includes language that would substantially expand the boundaries of federal parks at Kennesaw Mountain, Fort Frederica and Ocmulgee National Monument. The Washington Post reports the House is poised to take up the legislation later this month.

Georgia lawmakers have tried for years to get Congress to greenlight new federal protections for the parks. 

***

We had previously mentioned that U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, was scheduled to eulogize his late colleague John Dingell at his Michigan funeral mass on Tuesday. But when bad weather prevented the military airplane carrying the Atlanta Democrat and several other members of Congress from landing in Michigan, the lawmakers held an impromptu tribute of their own from 30,000 feet.

Missouri Republican Billy Long said Lewis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Michigan Republican Fred Upton led the mile-high tribute to Congress’ longest-serving member.

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