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The Jolt: Isakson is wary of a Trump declaration of emergency 

It’s Friday, Jan. 11. Which means that for nearly 16,000 of your fellow Georgians who are federal employees, it’s no-pay day. Things are looking pretty bleak on that front.

The Associated Press reports this morning that President Donald Trump has edged closer to declaring a national emergency to fund his long-promised border wall, which would amount to an escape hatch from a three-week impasse with Congress that has sent nearly a quarter of the federal government home.

A congressional official told the AP that the White House has directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to look for billions of dollars earmarked last year for disaster response for Puerto Rico and other areas that could be diverted to a border wall as part of the emergency declaration.

We reported earlier that Georgia’s Republican contingent in D.C. was holding firm on the shutdown and Trump’s insistence that Congress – or more specifically, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – include $5.7 billion in funding as a first installment for a beefed-up physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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But a presidential declaration of a national emergency, which would negate Congress’ constitutional role in budgeting matters, may be another matter.

In a Bloomberg Business interview on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., had a response ready when the host noted that it would be unusual to declare an emergency on a particularly domestic matter: “This is a new day and a new issue and the president is trying to deal with something that Congress will not give him a solution for.”

Perdue has been Trump’s champion in the U.S. Senate. In the House, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, is poised to become another Trump champion. Collins is the ranking GOP member of the chamber’s judiciary committee.

“From a legal perspective, he is absolutely on solid ground,” Collins said. “It’s sad that the Democrats are forcing him into a choice on doing a national emergency when they will not sit down and discuss it.”

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, has indicated he, too, was open to an emergency declaration.

But U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., on Thursday expressed some qualms during a lengthy interview with one of your insiders. As noted above, Isakson sides with Trump his GOP colleagues in the Senate when it comes to funding.

“I think the president is right on the track he has taken for us, to stick together to try and force the situation to go for a single-issue approach and single-vote approach,” Georgia’s senior senator said. “What should stay and what shouldn’t stay, I’m willing to talk about anything people with goodwill are willing to talk about. Because all of us are going to compromise a little bit and all of us are going to have to work together.

“Walls have been a priority at our borders for 40 years,” Isakson said, noting a visit he took to Yuma, Ariz., in 2007. “In a lot of places, you want to use walls. But this thing they’re doing now, they’re playing games with words, is what they’re doing. We are and they are.”

But then there’s that brewing declaration of a national emergency.

Isakson recalled a fierce debate in the Legislature shortly after he arrived at the state Capitol in 1977, during Atlanta’s murdered-and-missing-children crisis. The argument was over whether to give Gov. George Busbee the authority to declare an emergency that would allow the state to take over the investigation. Isakson opposed it, and the effort never escaped a House committee.  (In the decades that have followed, many other Republicans in the General Assembly have expressed similar concerns about emergency executive powers.)

“I have a lot of trouble with any one person having that much power without a check and a balance, even in a crisis,” Isakson said. “I’m not (universally) opposed (to) it, but I’m also not without reservation for it until I know how much power it’s going to grant. And if it’s solely one individual, I want to know how they’re going to execute it.”

***

Take this with a grain of salt, but a new Public Policy Polling survey finds Georgia voters evenly split on Congress spending billions on a border wall, with a slight majority blaming President Donald Trump and the GOP for the shutdown. The new survey, commissioned by MoveOn.org, a Democratic-oriented organization, also found that 40 percent of likely voters approved of U.S. Sen. David Perdue's job performance, compared to 39 percent who disapproved. Forty-one percent of voters surveyed said they were more likely to support Perdue at the polls of 2020 because of his support of Trump's stances during the shutdown showdown. 

***

Two bits of Stacey Abrams news have appeared in the last 24 hours. The former Democratic candidate for governor has endorsed state Sen. Nikema Williams of Atlanta in a race for state party chairman that will be settled on Jan. 26.

Abrams has also given every Democratic state lawmaker a campaign contribution through her newly-launched Fair Fight ActionPAC, totaling about $60,000.

Don’t assume the two are unrelated.

***

With Inauguration Day bearing down, stories of past assumptions of power are bound to proliferate.

One of our favorites dates to 2003, and the hours after the swearing-in of Gov. Sonny Perdue. During the campaign, Bill Shipp, the proprietor of a respected political newsletter, had written some articles that found no favor with Georgia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

And so the first order of his administration was a directive to members of his staff. None were to have any contact with Shipp. A top aide was directed to convey this action to the oldest of your Insiders, for the purpose of conveying it to the misbehaving journalist.

Which happened. But rather than despairing over four years of disfavor at the state Capitol, Shipp was rapturous. Everyone with information critical of the new governor now knew exactly who to call, he said. 

***

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dipped a toe into the ongoing water wars feud with Georgia. 

In an order that outlined a $2.5 billion plan to restore the Everglades and other water resources, he addressed the state’s legal fight over the water flowing downstream from Lake Lanier to the Gulf of Mexico.

DeSantis wrote that he ordered authorities to “continue to explore every option to stop Georgia’s harmful upstream water use from causing further adverse impacts” to the Apalachicola Bay area.

The legal case is nowhere near resolved. 

Georgia is now girding for a new court-appointed expert judge to reevaluate Florida’s legal challenge after the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision kept the case alive. And congressional fights over the issue are still pending.

But earlier this month outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal’s top aide, Chris Riley, revealed that Georgia had struck a tentative deal with Florida that was soon scuttled by then-Gov. Rick Scott.

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