1/22/19 - Atlanta - At least 500 gathered in near freezing temperatures on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Roe v. Wade for an annual rally and march to raise awareness and support of anti-abortion legislation. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

The Jolt: David Perdue opts out of call to repeal Roe v. Wade

As we’ve said many times before, the loudest dogs are often the ones that don’t bark.

On Thursday, Bloomberg reporter Steven Dennis noted on Twitter that 39 Republican members of the U.S. Senate had signed an amicus brief calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established a constitutional right to an abortion.

The brief is attached to a Louisiana case expected to be heard in March.

Thirteen GOP senators didn’t sign the court document, including David Perdue of Georgia. Of those 13, eight – again including Perdue – are up for re-election this year. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine also withheld their signatures. 

Consider it yet another sign that, even in Georgia, Republicans are worried about their standing with female voters. Perdue in particular may have wanted spare Kelly Loeffler additional first-week pressure. She’ll be sworn in on Monday as Georgia’s junior senator.

More on the Republican call for overturning previous SCOTUS rulings on abortion, via the Associated Press:

The brief goes further than Louisiana’s own brief to the court. The lawmakers urged the high court to not only reinstate the Louisiana law but also reconsider two major Supreme Court abortion rights decisions — the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that found that abortion is legal and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that upheld abortion but found some state restrictions could be allowed if they are not an undue burden for women seeking abortions.

The brief says the case “illustrates the unworkability of the ‘right to abortion’ found in Roe v. Wade … and the need for the Court to again take up the issue of whether Roe and Casey should be reconsidered and, if appropriate, overruled.”

***

Last night’s announcement that a U.S. drone strike on a convoy in Iraq resulted in the death of Quassim Suleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, prompted immediate worries about what might come next. Click here to read Georgia responses. Early this morning, President Donald Trump passed along this State Department warning:

Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge U.S. citizens to depart Iraq immediately. Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy.

***

An outbreak of gambling fever in the state Capitol has apparently been scheduled for mid-February.

We base this on an Atlanta Press Club notice that a Feb. 13 gathering of members will feature Steve Koonin, president and CEO of the Atlanta Hawks; Rich McKay, president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons; and Derek Schiller, president and CEO of the Atlanta Braves.

All three sports teams are backing legislation that would permit sports betting in Georgia. Tennessee did so last year. Virginia is taking the issue up this year as well.

***

The Republican who represents Gov. Brian Kemp’s home district in the state House just drew a formidable challenger.

Democrat Mokah Johnson, the co-founder of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, said she will launch her campaign against state Rep. Houston Gaines on Jan. 18 with a call for hate crimes legislation. 

“This year, we faced anti-Semitic vandalism on UGA’s campus and a planned attack on a black church nearby,” she said. “Hate crimes are on the rise across the country, and we need to fight back against intolerance and discrimination.”

In a press release announcing the rally, she added a reminder that Gaines voted against the measure last year that would have toughened penalties for offenders convicted of targeting a victim based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.

Gaines was one of the rare Republican bright spots in an otherwise tough 2018 cycle when he flipped the Athens-based House seat held by Democrat Deborah Gonzalez. 

A former University of Georgia student body president, Gaines quickly became one of the top Democratic targets in 2020 because of his support for Kemp’s agenda and his vote for last year’s anti-abortion “heartbeat” law.

***

Read all the way to the bottom of our AJC colleague James Salzer’s latest piece on the tax-cut dilemma facing Georgia lawmakers this year.

A kicker quote from state Rep. Terry England, the chairman of the tax-writing committee, quickly ricocheted around the state Capitol. 

England told Salzer that lawmakers committed to considering another income tax rate cut in 2020 even though it could tear a hole in the budget of about $500 million - or roughly the cost of Gov. Brian Kemp’s first teacher pay hike. 

Then he added a dose of skepticism about whether lawmakers might actually take that step: “Doing it might be a different thing.”

***

On a related note, state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is predicting legislation for a 5-cent-per-fluid-milliliter excise tax on consumable vapor products containing nicotine, the Rome News-Tribune reports.

***

Tom Buck III, who represented Columbus as a state House member for 38 years, died early Thursday morning in hospice care, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports. He was 81.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church of Columbus. Buck, a Democrat, was elected to 19 straight two-year terms, starting in 1966. He could most often be found wearing a pair of white buck shoes – a play on his name.

When Buck left the Legislature in 2004, he was one of the most powerful figures in the state Capitol. We noted his departure thusly:

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Tom Buck (D-Columbus) also announced his retirement Thursday, saying he is tired of what he called the political pettiness that seems to have taken over the Capitol since Republicans took control of the Senate in 2002 and the House moved toward a two-party system.

"I don't see things improving much in the next couple of years in terms of disruption and partisan politics," said Buck, 66, who has been in the Legislature 38 years. "The folks back home, they want you to work together. They don't want all that finger pointing. I just got a bellyfull of it."

***

One of your Insiders got scooped. And the leak came from his own brother. 

Max Bluestein joyfully informed the family Monday about the birth of his son, Brody Lev Bluestein, but he and his wife Valerie had not yet posted it on social media or sent out the obligatory mass email. 

So it was much to our surprise when a former federal lawmaker, then several other politicos, texted us Thursday morning with a congratulatory note about our nephew’s birth. 

It turned out that Max, a DHS deputy press secretary, leaked the news to Politico Playbook, which lauded little Brody with a “Welcome to the World” headline. Here’s a picture of the happy family.

Mazel Tov, Max. But we trust the other Bluestein brother, Lenny, to let us break the news when his first kid is born in a few weeks. 

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