U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainvesville, on Thursday. Via CNN

The Jolt: Doug Collins erupts at a hearing on immigration policy

The topic before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday was family separations at the U.S. border.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., began opening statement in a somewhat bored, droning fashion:

“And here we are again. We had this same hearing in February. We know the crisis on our southern border is being fueled by loopholes in our immigration laws, Border Patrol…has testified changes were needed to get the situation under control. In fact, we’ve heard that. Over and over and over and over again. But the crisis has gotten worse.

“In February, the Border Patrol apprehended 66,000 individuals. That number has been above 92,000 every month since. Peaking at over 132,000 apprehensions in May alone…

He soon interrupted himself. “Look, I’m going to stop. I’m not going to read this.” And then he erupted:

“You know what is dehumanizing? It’s continuing to bring the same witnesses, or the same people from the same agencies, to talk about this over and over and over again. What’s dehumanizing is doing that and not doing anything about it. That’s what’s dehumanizing.

“It’s talking about a problem. Talking about a problem. Talking about a problem. And never putting a solution up. I’ve talked about this at every one of these so far. Especially in the last few weeks.

“And look, my Democratic colleagues have ideas. I may disagree with those ideas, but put a bill up. I have a bill. Put mine up. Make amendments to it, do whatever you want to do. That’s what Congress is supposed to do.

“Dehumanizing is this. This is dehumanizing. What a competent and capable majority would do is actually put a bill forward…

“Instead we’re having bash-the-president time, bash-the-administration time. That’s all this is.”

Collins apparently decided that his remarks might seem rude to visitors, and so directed a few remarks to the prospective witnesses:

“I appreciate you being here to testify. Some of you have been here before, some of you are replacing the ones who had already testified before. Mr. White, you’re back again. Good to see you.

“This is what bothers me. I can read another opening statement, we can ask questions … We’ve heard from both administrations – the Obama administration and the Trump administration – that laws need to be fixed and worked on. But we don’t do it.”

Watch the CNN clip here. By way of background: Collins initially rejected a $4.6 billion emergency spending bill that House Democrats moved last month to replenish funding at federal agencies strained by the border crisis, calling it a “flimsy Band-Aid” that didn’t address needed changes in immigration laws.

He eventually backed the bipartisan Senate version that Trump ultimately signed into law.

Collins is not the first member of Congress to be frustrated by its tortoise-like pace. And it might be worth noting that the last occupant of his Ninth District seat eventually decided that a run for governor might be more productive.

***

Three of nine GOP House members from Georgia crossed the aisle yesterday to support a two-year, $320 billion budget deal after President Donald Trump endorsed the agreement that White House staffers had cut with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

Drew Ferguson of West Point, Doug Collins of Gainesville and Rob Woodall of Lawrenceville joined with all five Georgia Democrats to advance the sweeping deal, which would also lift the debt ceiling until August 2021. 

Fiscal conservative groups have panned the agreement, given its mountain red ink. House Freedom Caucus member Jody Hice, R-Monroe, even backed a formal effort to rename the legislation "A Bill to Kick the Can Down the Road" act that was beaten back by a broad bipartisan majority on the floor last night.

The measure now heads to the Senate, where Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue pledged he will support it when it comes up for a vote next week. We're told it's still to be determined whether Johnny Isakson will travel back to Washington after fracturing four ribs last week. 

***

You’ll recall that Thursday’s Morning Jolt led with the topic of legalized marijuana and the U.S. Senate race.

Earlier this week, Democrat Teresa Tomlinson, the former mayor of Columbus, unveiled a package of federal policy initiatives that included the removal of cannabis from a federal list of controlled substances that put the plant in the same category as heroin.

We mentioned that the city of Clarkston, under Mayor Ted Terry, who himself is now a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, had been the first Georgia municipality to make the penalty for small amounts of pot something akin to a parking ticket. And yes, we did use the word “decriminalize.”

We quickly got an extended note from Tomlinson’s camp, quoting the candidate:

Mayor Terry did not decriminalize marijuana in Clarkston. He reduced a city fine for possession of the substance. However, he did not and could not affect controlling state or federal law criminalizing marijuana possession, so he unintentionally put his citizens at risk of believing that they could possess marijuana without serious, life-altering ramifications. 

“As an attorney and former mayor and public safety director, I understand that a 19-year old who thought the mayor said it was “ok” to possess marijuana could well find him/herself photographed, finger-printed and criminally charged under state law for misdemeanor marijuana possession,” Tomlinson stated. (Based on Sec. 35-3-33 (A)(ii), among other provisions).

There is also a broader question as to the oath of law enforcement officers, which requires them to charge all observed state criminal offenses. The Clarkston ordinance puts those law enforcement officers in a conflict and has no effect on the DeKalb County or Georgia State Patrol law enforcement officers who also patrol those streets. And, the judges hearing these cases maybe state judges uncontrolled by the city, who could criminally sentence and fine those charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession.

 While I appreciate Mayor Terry’s efforts to raise the conversation of marijuana decriminalization, I would not put our citizens at risk of state criminal sentencing,” Tomlinson stated. She goes on to say, “I would rather move to change the actual controlling state and federal laws and provide clarity to citizens, officers, and judges so that no citizen is lulled into a false sense of security with serious ramifications.”

***

Ed Kilgore, who in another life was a foot soldier in the Georgia Democratic army, is now a columnist for New York magazine. His background occasionally leaks out. Here’s the lede of his treatise on presidential candidate Cory Booker’s decision to become a fighter rather than a lover:

One of my earliest political memories as a child growing up in Georgia was hearing former Governor Ellis Arnall describe his gubernatorial comeback bid in 1966 as “the Love Campaign.” It didn’t work out too well for the candidate with a well-established cross-racial appeal at a critical moment in the civil-rights era. He lost a Democratic runoff to famed ax-handle-wielding segregationist Lester Maddox, who was more into sputtering rage than love (the third-place finisher was a fellow named Jimmy Carter, who would win four years later).

So I’m naturally skeptical about the political power of love, aside from feeling a bit less irenic myself after two and a half years of Donald Trump as president.

Your vocabulary lesson for the day:

Irenic (ahy-ren-ik, ahy-ree-nik): a) tending to promote peace or reconciliation; b) an emotional state that leads one to break out in a barber-shop rendition of “Goodnight Irene.

*** 

The Associated Press reports that Confederate Railroad, a country rock band that had its origins in 1980s Marietta, has lost a second summer fair gig after objections over the use of the Confederate flag in its logo:

The band's Aug. 1 date at the Ulster County Fair in New York's Hudson Valley has been canceled, a spokesman for Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said Thursday. Illinois this month canceled a state fair appearance by the band, whose logo features a steam locomotive flying Confederate [battle] flags.

The flag has come under increasing criticism as a racist emblem of slavery and segregation.

The AP quotes frontman Danny Shirley: "I've done nothing wrong. I love the part of the country I'm from, and I will never apologize for that."

The group has always indulged in good, honky-tonk music. But the market has changed, and in commercial terms, the Confederacy is far less viable than it was three decades ago. Ask the operators of Stone Mountain Park.

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