U.S. Sen.Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., (right) with then-gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp in a November file photo.
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Jolt: Johnny Isakson worries shutdown could threaten Super Bowl

Publicly, Republican lawmakers from Georgia are holding the line on the partial federal government shutdown, which is now in its 26th day.

But cracks are beginning to appear, pressure beginning to build. On Tuesday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian reported that the shutdown will cost his airline $25 million this month in lost revenue.

In this morning’s edition of the Savannah Morning News, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter continues to blame Democrats, but he acknowledges that the pot of federal money set aside for the deepening of the Port of Savannah could be at risk – should President Donald Trump revisit the idea of declaring a national emergency in order to fund his border wall.

“We don’t really have assurances that any money is off-limits,” Carter said.

And there is the riled-up U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who walked onto the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon and excoriated his colleagues for “not doing a damned thing while the American people are suffering.”

Isakson was a late arrival to Washington this week -- he stayed behind in Georgia an extra day to watch Gov. Brian Kemp’s swearing-in. But when passing through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Isakson said he was unable to offer an explanation for the shutdown when constituents, including several Transportation Security Agency workers, approached him.

“We’re just doing the wrong thing, punishing the wrong people, and it’s not right,” he said.

Isakson didn’t offer up any specific solutions for breaking through the border impasse, but he said negotiators need to “find a way to do something different.” But he didn’t dismiss an interim solution if a quick deal can’t be found.

Isakson also voiced a new worry that’s making the rounds here. Feb. 3 is bearing down on the city.

“We’ve got a Super Bowl coming to Atlanta, Ga., in about three weeks. The biggest tourism event in the world this year. What if the largest airport in the world, that’s going to bring people to the largest football game in the world, goes out of business because the TSA strikes?” Isakson asked. “Then you’ve just cost millions of dollars to the United States of America, my home city of Atlanta and others.”

According to Government Executive magazine, Isakson is one of eight GOP senators who have signed onto a measure U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is advancing to avoid government shutdowns in the future.

The bill stipulates that, if Congress fails to meet a funding deadline, a continuing resolution would automatically kick in, maintaining spending levels at the current rate.

***

One important thing that escaped our notice at Gov. Brian Kemp’s inauguration on Monday: One of the attendees was the exiting Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who was defeated by Kemp in a GOP primary runoff.

***

The Marietta Daily Journal reports this morning that, for the first time, Cobb County Commission Chairman Mike Boyce says he’s considering a run for re-election in 2020.

***

A sign that Gwinnett County’s GOP establishment may be going all in on a March 19 referendum to bring MARTA into the county: Its election board on Tuesday approved three full weeks of early voting.

***

Get ready for a youth movement in the state Democratic party.

Tuesday was the deadline for candidates to qualify for a sweep of leadership positions, and some of the party’s rising stars got in the race.

We’ve told you that state Sen. Nikema Williams is the front-runner to lead the organization. The only other candidate is businessman Daniel Blackman.

Other elected officials seeking party posts include Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry for first vice-chair, Atlanta Public Schools chair Jason Esteves and state Rep. Bee Nguyen for another vice-chair post. Here’s the full list of candidates.

***

The Georgia General Assembly has more openly LGBTQ members than ever before -- and more than any other state in the South. 

Project Q’s Patrick Saunders reports that Matthew Wilson’s victory in a Brookhaven-based seat means at least five members of the House are LGBTQ. The others are Karla Drenner, Park Cannon, Sam Park and Renitta Shannon.

The story quoted Houston Mayor Annise Parker, head of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, saying that “you would need to travel 520 miles north or 900 miles west to find a state with the same number of out LGBTQ state legislators.” She adds: 

“With a larger LGBTQ legislative caucus comes more influence and more political power. We know that when LGBTQ elected officials are in the room, it humanizes our lives, changes political debates and leads to more inclusive legislation. Georgia is behind most states in pro-equality laws and policies, but this army of five will undoubtedly begin to change that.”

***

Prepare for subpoenas? U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, is set to hold a field hearing in Georgia as part of her new role as chairwoman of a revived House subcommittee on elections.

USA Today reports that other hearings will be held in Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and Texas.

Fudge’s GOP counterpart, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, recently hinted the committee found voting irregularities in Georgia and three other states after sending election monitors there last fall.  

*** 

Speaking of House committees, Georgia’s two most junior lawmakers were given welcome news yesterday. 

West Point Republican Drew Ferguson won a slot on what’s arguably the chamber’s most powerful panel. Ferguson had quietly been lobbying for a seat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee for the better part of a year. He also took a position as the House GOP’s No. 2 vote counter after the election. 

And Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, secured a spot on the House Judiciary Committee. The panel has jurisdiction over her top priority -- gun control -- as well as as voting rights and any Trump investigations. 

If this Politico story is to be believed, McBath’s support of Nancy Pelosi for speaker might have played a factor in her receiving the assignment (or, more accurately, the fact that she didn’t vote against her). New York Democrat Kathleen Rice, a Pelosi rebel who instead voted for Stacey Abrams for speaker, was blocked from a spot on Judiciary by the Californian. 

***

It’s no question that the National Republican Congressional Committee is seeking revenge for McBath flipping Karen Handel’s old House seat last fall. The Hill newspaper reports the House GOP’s campaign arm is crafting a strategy to retake the House next year that focuses on the 31 Democrats representing districts Trump won in 2016 -- including Georgia’s 6th -- and “starting a recruitment process that will have a heavy emphasis on female candidates.”

*** 

Meanwhile, Democrats continue to hungrily eye Rob Woodall’s 7th District seat next door. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blasted out a press release yesterday connecting the Lawrenceville Republican and Delta Air Lines’ $25 million in shutdown-related revenue losses. His alleged crime? Voting against House Democrats’ recent bills to reopen portions of the government. 

Woodall and his eight Georgia GOP colleagues have voted against the legislation because they lacked new border security money.

*** 

Georgia’s U.S. House delegation gave unanimous support Tuesday to a resolution condemning Iowa Republican Steve King for making racist remarks. 

Earlier this week, House GOP leaders stripped King of his committee assignments, including a top perch on a Judiciary subcommittee. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, the top Republican on the panel, said lawmakers “must treat each other with dignity, respect, and love, because when we as members of Congress speak, people listen and hold us accountable.”

***

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, was at the White House on Tuesday afternoon meeting with Trump and eight other Republican lawmakers as the shutdown stretched into a 25th day. Not there were any of the centrist Democrats Trump was hoping to woo. The short list reportedly included David Scott of Atlanta, a centrist who had once indicated he was open to working with his former Wharton business school classmate on certain jobs bills. 

A spokeswoman for Scott said he never received his invite from the White House for the lunch. 

***

Michael Williams is set for an arraignment hearing Wednesday on charges that he made a false report that computer servers were stolen from his campaign office shortly before his last-place finish in the May primary.

The Republican former state senator has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is not expected to appear in the Hall County court. 

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X