U.S. Sen. David Perdue (L-R), Karen Pence and her husband, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence on a tour to inspect the damage wrought by Hurricane Michael in in October 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Jolt: Why the debate over Hurricane Michael relief could stretch into 2020

On Wednesday, Gov. Brian Kemp vented his anger at Congress -- but avoided criticizing President Donald Trump -- over the stalled Hurricane Michael relief measure in Congress.

A few hours later, his former yet current arch-rival, Stacey Abrams, struck a decidedly different tone.

Asked for her stance on the roughly $14 billion package, the former Democratic candidate for governor pointed to White House intransigence on increased aid to Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory that was devastated by two hurricanes in 2017. Abrams also took aim at U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga.:

“Senator Perdue has sided with President Trump’s absurd vendetta against fellow Americans, and as a result, he has jeopardized hurricane relief for Georgia farmers and families.

“The Democratic-controlled House passed a bipartisan relief package three months ago, but the Senate has failed to act, and Senator Perdue unconscionably voted against the House bill last week.

“Pitting Americans in Georgia against Americans in Puerto Rico is fundamentally wrong and wholly unnecessary. Georgia families and farmers deserve better leadership, and they deserve real relief now.”

Abrams, you’ll recall, is pondering a challenge to Perdue. So is former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who is prepping to run if Abrams doesn’t. Referring to GOP objections over increased funding for Puerto Rico, Tomlinson said:

“Georgia farmers should never have been pitted against other US citizens. Stop the ‘crazy and the mean’ and get down to the business of assisting those in need.”

So it’s a safe bet that this impasse over disaster relief will bleed over into the 2020 election season.

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If Stacey Abrams wants to run for president she should jump into the fray sooner rather than later. That's the conclusion of the political analysis blog FiveThirtyEight, which found that recent presidential nominees have typically ramped up their presidential campaigns by at least the spring of the odd-numbered year before the election. Abrams recently said she could wait until the fall to decide. 

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Seven of 10 Georgia voters say they oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that guaranteed the right to an abortion, according to a just-released Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll. From our AJC colleague Maya Prabhu:

Those surveyed were more closely split on a pending state law that would outlaw the procedure at about six weeks in most cases. Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the abortion legislation.

About 49% oppose the bill, according to the poll, with about 44% saying they support it. Nearly 6% of respondents said they neither supported nor opposed the measure.

But it is the intensity issue that should worry Republicans who pushed House Bill 481 through the Legislature:

Those with opinions had strong ones — about 39 percent of those polled said they “strongly opposed” the legislation and almost 26 percent “strongly support” the measure.

This is a familiar dynamic, often seen on the Republican side when Second Amendment issues are in play.

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Here’s another sign that abortion will join voting rights as one of Georgia’s top campaign issues in 2020: U.S. Sen. Cory Booker is headed to Atlanta next week, and he’s set to talk about protecting the right to vote and “defending access to reproductive health care.”

The New Jersey Democrat is making Georgia the third-stop of his “hometown kickoff tour’ that starts in Newark, then heads to Iowa before landing in Atlanta on April 17. From there, he heads to Nevada for three days. 

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Georgia Democrats are taking note that Gov. Brian Kemp is holding off on signing the anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill until a certain golf tournament is over. The statement from party chair Nikema Williams: 

Brian Kemp can’t spend three months rolling back our freedoms, only to rub elbows with business leaders the next week - there are consequences to his actions. Georgia women, doctors, and workers will pay for HB 481 in jobs moved out of state, in rural communities that will lose medical care, and in the lives of Georgia women.”

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Trolling is harder than it looks. It takes imagination, yes. But it also requires one to be able to discern the difference between an “M” and an “L.”

We’ve told you that the Cobb County tax commissioner’s office has revoked three years of homestead exemption claims – for 2016, 2017 and 2018 -- by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, and her husband Curtis. McBath’s husband lives in Tennessee.

During the 2018 Sixth District congressional campaign, which resulted in the defeat of Republican incumbent Karen Handel, McBath said had briefly moved there to help him work through family issues -- and that she had switched her residency back to Georgia the following year.

A homestead exemption can be a factor in determining state residency, but it isn’t the sole factor. Nonetheless, the National Republican Congressional Committee is pressing the point. Last Friday, the NRCC sent a package to the Tennessee home of McBath’s husband. Lukas Mikelionis of Fox News bit:

The lawmaker accepted the gift on Friday at 10:45 a.m. and signed for it as "LMCBATH". Fox News obtained a copy of the signature.

But actually, the signature tells a different story:

From the Fox News website

Clearly, the recipient wrote “M McBath.” Lucy McBath was in New York, we’re told. The package was signed for by Margaret McBath, the congresswoman’s mother-in-law, according to a statement by the McBath campaign: “Pulling someone’s family into false partisan political attacks are exactly what people hate about Washington.”

This, people, is also why we still need to teach cursive writing in elementary schools. And how to read it, too.

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U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg has rejected a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the state’s current voting machine system from Secretary of State Brad Rafensperger. Attorneys for his office had argued that the recent passage of legislation authorizing the purchase of a new system had rendered the lawsuit moot.

Plans are for the system to be up and running statewide in time for the 2020 presidential contest.

“As long as the state is proceeding to use [direct-recording electronic voting machines] in all remaining 2019 elections, it is the court’s view at this juncture that defendants’ mootness argument is not meritorious,” Totenberg wrote in an order issued Tuesday.

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President Donald Trump is suggesting that he'll let former WSB Radio host Herman Cain decide whether he wants to move forward his expected nomination to become a member of the Federal Reserve board in the face of Senate GOP resistance.

“Well, I like Herman Cain, and Herman will make that determination,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “Herman is a wonderful man. He’s been a supporter of mine for a long time. He actually ran a very good campaign.”

Some Republican senators have voiced concern about Cain because of his political experience and past sexual assault allegations. 

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U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., has reintroduced his Trump-backed immigration bill that would halve legal immigration levels, prioritize high-skilled workers and limit the types of family members immigrants could bring into the country.

Politico sees the move as a way to undercut White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who’s advocated for increasing the number of legal immigrants admitted into the U.S. 

Despite support from the president, Perdue proposal did not advance during the last Congress. The White House eventually released its own proposal that included elements from the Perdue bill, but that failed to muster even 40 votes in the Senate last year

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The Huffington Post chronicled how U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, scrambled to contain a liberal revolt that threatened to stall his tax bill this week. He pulled aside freshman Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Katie Hill to convince them not to oppose the measure, even though it includes language long sought by tax prep giants like TurboTax that would bar the IRS from creating a free online tax filing system. It worked.

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