Top Georgia Democrat: 2017 will be the start of a Medicaid expansion

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams had a bold prediction in a Thursday meeting with the AJC's editorial board: 2017 will be the year when Republicans relent on Medicaid expansion.

They won't back a full-throttled expansion of the program, she predicted, but "some version of private option" that's similar to the Arkansas model.

Gov. Nathan Deal and other top Republicans have long been firmly opposed to expanding the program, saying it's too costly in the long run, though last year they briefly dabbled with an "experiment" that would send more federal dollars to struggling hospitals. You can read all about the Arkansas model here.

The Atlanta Democrat also predicted Hillary Clinton's campaign will zero in on Georgia in the general election, sensing an opportunity to turn the Peach State purple if Donald Trump emerges as the GOP nominee. She echoed other Democratic heavyweights in Georgia who see an opening.

"We are where North Carolina was in 2008 but we’re cheaper and we’re faster," she said of the Tarheel State, which Barack Obama won in 2008 but lost four years later. "If we win now, we’ll be set up to win in 2018 and 2020 and be ready for the next redistricting. If we are not in charge by the next redistricting, a host of trouble will follow."

She added: "We aren’t only a viable target. We’re a likely target."

Some signs she outlined to look for Clinton interest in Georgia:

"Are they investing in field operations before October? If you’re only starting to see field offices open in October, that’s not real investment. Are they investing in staffing? That’s an important signal. Are surrogates coming to the state? When surrogates come, investments follow."


Consider this another sign of the growing cost of the water wars litigation: On Earth Day's eve, Judson Turner stepped down as chief of the state environmental regulatory agency to focus on the ongoing legal feud.

From our AJC colleague Dan Chapman:

Turner, appointed “water czar” by Gov. Nathan Deal, will remain a member of the state’s water litigation team as a Special Assistant Attorney General. Turner heads the state’s legal fight against Florida over an “equitable apportionment” of the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola Rivers.

The water wars have been in and out of courts for 25 years.


Note the sponsors of the fundraiser include the Cathy family, the founders of the Chick-fil-A franchise.


State Sen. Tommie Williams responded forcefully to criticism of the Republican he endorsed to succeed him.

Toombs County Commission Chair Blake Tillery struck and killed a bicyclist last week and his appearance at an event three days later rubbed his opponents the wrong way. A campaign coordinator for state Rep. Delvis Dutton, who is running against him in the May 24 race, attacked Tillery for the appearance.

Williams issued a lengthy defense to Southeast Georgia Today that included these comments: /media/jui/js/jquery.min.js /media/jui/js/jquery-noconflict.js /media/jui/js/jquery-migrate.min.js /media/system/js/caption.js//

"Blake stayed in his house and didn't eat for three or four days.  He's mourning over the incident.  It's unfortunate but it could happen to anybody to go out and have a tragic accident.  Blake wasn't texting or talking on the phone, it's just one of those things, but to take that and use it for fodder for a campaign just demonstrates the lowliness of campaigns today and that's the kind of senator he (Dutton) is planning on being by using that kind of negative politics on someone's misfortune.

"I hope people can see through the negative.  As far as Blake is concerned, he will eventually get over this and be a strong person for it.  He only was out there because I went and got him out of the house, but you have a short campaign and you've got to work it.  He was out there working because I asked him to to get out."


A meeting of a key Republican National Committee panel adjourned Thursday without recommending any changes to the rules for July's presidential convention, leaving a major opening for front-runner Donald Trump.

Here's the lead from NBC News: 

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- The Republican National Committee's Standing Rules Committee closed Wednesday without recommending any changes to the convention rules, with members in near-unanimous agreement that any changes would only fuel charges that the RNC is playing favorites in advance of the presidential nomination vote in Cleveland.

The biggest debate took place over an amendment proposed by Oregon commiteeman Soloman Yue to change the convention rules from House Rules to Robert's Rules of Order, which proponents say would prevent establishment-minded Republicans from inserting a favorable candidate at a later ballot during a contested convention. A half-dozen members rose to express their opposition to the proposal, all warning that any changes now would be damaging to the party.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus spoke out against Yue's proposed changes, according to Politico, who warned that they could further anger Trump. The billionaire in recent weeks has railed that the primary system is "rigged."

The Hill had this hot take from Georgia's Randy Evans, a member of the rules panel:

"We are basically in the seventh inning of the ball game and its not right to change the rules of the ball game in the middle," Evans said.  


"This is a very hotly contested election and any change that we make will be viewed with a large degree of cynicism.”


State Sen. Mike Crane got a major boost in his bid for the Third District congressional seat Thursday after the political action committee for conservative Club for Growth announced its endorsement.

“Mike Crane brings a wealth of successful experience in the private sector, and a record of strong fiscal conservatism in the Georgia Senate,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in a statement. “Mike has challenged his own party on crony tax breaks and fought against tax increases. We are confident he will bring that same attitude to Washington where he will fight to cut taxes, spending, and regulations.”

Crane faces six competitors in the crowded primary to replace Lynn Westmoreland in the deeply conservative Third District. His campaign recently reported it closed the first quarter with more than $77,000 in the bank.


Georgia U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson are teaming up to push for more money for the Savannah Harbor deepening project.

The pair introduced an amendment to the U.S. Army Corps spending bill currently being considered on the Senate floor that would direct the Army Corps to allocate more money to deep-draft navigation projects such as the Savannah port expansion, Georgia’s largest economic development project.

“Clearly, maintaining the Port of Savannah and completing this infrastructure project should be a top priority for the Army Corps of Engineers,” Perdue said in a statement.

Isakson said last week that the project, known as SHEP, appeared to be on track for the $85 million to $90 million backers say is needed this year to keep it on track. His amendment with Perdue could send even more to the project if adopted.

Party leaders have yet to announce whether the amendment will be considered.


The chairwoman of a key committee in the U.S. House announced plans to replace a display of state flags that had lined the walls of an underground tunnel leading to the U.S. Capitol after a legislative fight erupted last year over Confederate imagery.

Michigan Republican Candice Miller said the flags will be replaced by reproductions of the commemorative quarters the U.S. Mint issued for each of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories.

“Given the controversy surrounding confederate imagery, I decided to install a new display.  I am well aware of how many Americans negatively view the confederate flag, and, personally, I am very sympathetic to these views.  However, I also believe that it is not the business of the federal government to dictate what flag each state flies,” Miller said in a statement Thursday.

The racially-charged shootings at a black church in Charleston last summer sparked a major fight over the Confederate battle flag on Capitol Hill. That led to some Democratic calls for Congress to remove all items bearing the image, including many state flags.

Georgia removed the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag in 2001.


U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said out loud Thursday what many in Washington have long whispered: he does not have the votes to move the budget blueprint written by Roswell Republican Tom Price.

Here’s more from Politico:

“You need the votes to pass a budget,” the Wisconsin Republican told reporters at a news conference when asked about the possibility of moving a fiscal blueprint. “We don’t have them right now.”

When Democrats failed to pass budgets while they were in the majority, Republicans pilloried them for failing to do their job. But now, Democrats are lobbing the same criticism back at the GOP.

GOP lawmakers have for months been divided about whether to keep in place the two-year budget deal negotiated by then-Speaker John Boehner on his way out the door. Price attempted to bridge the gap in his initial proposal but was unable to find 218 votes.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...