Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., answers questions from children who joined their parents for 'Take Your Child To Work' day during his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol. Alex Edelman/Getty Images
Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images
Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

The Jolt: U.S. House chaplain axed, perhaps for uttering the wrong prayer

Washington is astir over the firing of the U.S. House chaplain by the soon-to-be-ex Speaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan’s office on Thursday confirmed that the speaker requested and received on April 15 the resignation House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy. Technically, Conroy is an officer of the House, like the sergeant-at-arms, and many members are wondering how he could be given the boot without a vote by the chamber.

Also, there’s the matter of why. From the Associated Press:

Ryan spokeswoman Ashlee Strong would not reveal the speaker's reasons for forcing Conroy out. A top Democrat, Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, said he believes it was because of a prayer Conroy gave during last fall's tax debate urging that lawmakers not "pick winners and losers" but spread its benefits equitably.

Strong said that was not the reason.

Both Ryan and Conroy are Catholic. Here’s the line in the November prayer that Crowley and many members of Congress are pointing to:

“As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, may all Members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great Nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

Naturally, a member of Congress from Georgia will be involved in the aftermath. From Roll Call:

Ryan has asked Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., to lead a bipartisan group of members in looking at potential replacements for Conroy. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., will serve as the lead member of the group for the Democrats.

Collins, a military chaplain for 17 years, said there’s no set number of members for the group yet or timeline for the group to submit recommendations. He predicted it could take a few months and a replacement would likely not be ready before Conroy’s May 24 resignation date.

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Add this to the surreal pile of video that bears watching: U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, got into quite the testy exchange with Diamond and Silk on Capitol Hill yesterday after the Democrat questioned the conservative media darlings about their earnings through Facebook.

The pro-Trump duo was on hand to testify about web censorship before the House Judiciary Committee -- they say they had been silenced by the social media platform because they are conservatives. Johnson criticized the panel’s leaders for giving Diamond and Silk a platform on which make more money. Catch the video here:

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Last month, the state Legislature voted to abandon a tax break on jet fuel sales that would have saved Delta about $40 million a year -- all because of the airline’s attitude toward the NRA.

But the airline still has a chance to recoup some of those costs, thanks to a recent court ruling. Stay with us here:

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals this week dismissed a lawsuit by Clayton County seeking to allow it to continue to collect airport fuel taxes that the Federal Aviation Administration has tried to block. 

That amounts to about $18 million annually from fuel taxes that the county splits with the school board. Locally, this is a big deal.

County officials say they still believe they can win the legal case in the long run, but the court’s decision not to pick a side was a blow that could force Clayton lawmakers to the negotiating table.

That’s because Gov. Nathan Deal had set aside about $27 million to compensate Clayton over the next three years -- only if the county lost the case.

That money could still be available to the county, but we imagine it might come with some strings attached. 

Remember: Deal’s office strongly supported the Delta tax break, and the governor pledged to find other ways to save the airline money after the incentive was scuttled. An agreement by Clayton to stop levying the fee in exchange for access to that $27 million state fund could be part of the plan.

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Gov. Nathan Deal has more back-up if he chooses to veto a measure that would cannibalize a section of Stockbridge and form a new city of Eagles Landing. 

Capital One Public Funding wrote Deal a letter urging him to nix legislation that “sets a broad and dangerous precedent for all existing and prospective purchasers of Georgia municipal bonds.”

The financial powerhouse has more than a little skin in the game. It owns the majority of the more than $14 million in outstanding bonds owed by the city of Stockbridge. And it said the new city would impair those bonds and create “unprecedented risk” for other firms that hold municipal debt.

Deal recently met with Stockbridge’s mayor and Eagles Landing proponents to vet the legislation and was tight-lipped about whether he would sign it.

But faced with mounting questions about how it will impact the bond market -- Deal also was asked about the measure during a meeting with credit ratings analysts in New York -- he seems more likely than not to veto it. 

Read the letter here. And check out our AJC colleague Leon Stafford’s latest piece on the deal here.

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It’s not exactly news, since one of the group’s founders was quick to come to his defense last month, but state Sen. David Shafer of Duluth, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, is touting his endorsement by Georgia Conservatives in Action, a network founded by south Georgia GOP activists Kay Godwin and Pat Tippett.

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The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee on Thursday announced its most serious verdict since Georgia’s Johnny Isakson took over the panel in 2015. The committee issued a “letter of admonition” against New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, who dodged conviction last year in a federal corruption trial for allegedly accepting illegal gifts from a political ally. The bipartisan panel said Menendez violated Senate rules and ordered him to repay the gifts. 

The panel’s public rebuke was a rare one. It is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, which means any action the committee takes must be bipartisan. It is the panel’s first letter of admonition since Isakson became chairman in 2015. 

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The U.S. Senate on Thursday quietly confirmed a pair of Georgia law enforcement officials to two vacant U.S. marshal positions in the state. Monroe County Sheriff John Bittick and retired Garden City police chief David Lyons will soon be sworn in to apprehend fugitives, transport prisoners and undertake other protective duties in middle and southern Georgia.

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