Efforts to pass a relief bill for victims of Hurricane Michael and other natural disasters have hovered over Congress like the dark, gloomy skies of a stalled weather system.
Even now with sunlight on the horizon, clouds named Roy and Massie continue to roil the atmosphere.
It’s beginning to wear on U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton.
“Unfortunately, more clowns showed up today,” Scott wrote in a tweet after a fellow Republican, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, blocked a vote on the $19 billion recovery package that would help, among others, southwest Georgia farmers.
That was the second failed attempt to fast-track the bill through the U.S. House, which started its Memorial Day recess before the Senate approved the package after months of negotiations. A lone objection by Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas blocked the first attempt to pass it by unanimous consent. Most House members were out of town and unable to participate in a roll call vote.
Roy made a case that such a big bill should not pass “without members of Congress being present.” But he was also upset that the legislation lacked funding for the southern border — a request the White House dropped at the last minute — and did not include spending offsets.
Massie’s reasoning followed along the same lines as Roy’s.
“If the speaker of this House felt that this was must-pass legislation, the speaker of this House should have called a vote on this bill before sending every member of Congress on recess for 10 days and I object,” Massie said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose own state of California stands to see funding in the bill for victims of wildfires, called the moves to block the package a “stunning act of obstruction.”
U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a major participant in the lengthy negotiations, found himself on the same side as Pelosi, a rare position for a Georgia Republican. He described Massie’s objection as “yet another example of politicians putting their own self-interest ahead of the national interest.”
Eventual passage appears certain for the bill that would set aside more than $3 billion to cover farm damage from Michael and other recent storms, assist Georgians hit by tornadoes earlier this year, and help peach and blueberry farmers crippled by a late-season freeze in 2017.
The Senate voted 85 to 8 for the package, and the House passed several versions of the legislation while it was snared in the Senate. President Donald Trump has said he will sign the measure, although he had earlier opposed the level of funding Democrats sought for Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria. He had also pressed for border funding before abandoning it.
The House could approve the bill in a roll call vote when it returns Monday.
But the delay adds to the hardship on Georgia farmers, who suffered more than $2.5 billion in damages from Michael, according to a University of Georgia analysis. The planting season for some crops began months ago. Some farmers, reeling from the losses, responded by mortgaging off portions of their land. Others chose to skip planting this year.
Be sure to be insured: A new hurricane season is upon us.
That’s meant more to Georgians of late, after watching Hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Michael batter the state over the past three years.
Gov. Brian Kemp has taken notice.
“We have vulnerabilities now we haven’t seen in the past,” Kemp told WABE’s Emma Hurt.
He’s not ready to attribute it to climate change.
“I don’t know if it’s a cycle we’re in or whatever the case may be — a lot of people can argue it in different ways — but I know this: We’ve got to be prepared,” the governor said.
To Kemp, that means getting the word out. That word is really five: Get yourself some good insurance.
He said a former FEMA director told him “if you can do one thing as governor, make sure people know they have the best insurance they can for the replacement value of their homes.”
Local governments can amplify that message, he said.
And that’s about it.
The governor said government’s role should be limited.
“Government cannot do everything for everybody,” he said. “People are going to have to be responsible, especially when they’re property owners.”
10 in the 7th: There are so many candidates now running in the 7th Congressional District that voters may need a mnemonic device to remember all of them.
The Democrats already have enough for a basketball team: Carolyn Bourdeaux, who lost to U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall in November in the nation’s closest U.S. House race; attorney Marqus Cole; former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves; party activist Nabilah Islam; and state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero.
The Republicans have four candidates: military veteran Harrison Floyd, former Home Depot executive Lynn Homrich; emergency room physician Rich McCormick; and former pro football player Joe Profit.
But they’re about to add a point guard: state Sen. Renee Unterman.
An email this past week announced that she will launch her campaign Thursday.
The large field of candidates signals the potential for big impact.
Woodall survived his midterm challenge by 433 votes. He then said earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.
That’s left an open seat in what used to be a GOP stronghold covering parts of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties. It now looks more like a swing district, especially after Gwinnett became a minority-majority county.
‘Heartbeat’ division: Middle ground is in short supply in the fight over House Bill 481, Georgia’s anti-abortion “heartbeat” law.
John Melvin, Cobb County’s acting district attorney, makes that pretty clear in an essay on the Merion West website.
Responding to prosecutors who say they won't enforce restrictions under the law, Melvin compared them to white supremacists who denied personhood to minorities in Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South.
In addition to banning most abortions at about six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, HB 481 allows parents to claim a 6-week-old embryo as a dependent on their taxes. The embryo is also to be counted toward the state’s population, and a court can order a father to pay child support after a heartbeat has been detected in the womb.
Opposition to personhood is a red line for Melvin.
“Of course, to justify baseless discrimination and rejection of personhood status for some, Jim Crow had to aggressively enforce lies and disinformation,” Melvin said. “Likewise, as is increasingly becoming the norm for the political left, HB 481’s simple statement of personhood unleashed incredulous histrionics. Instead of embracing the expanded protection for the most vulnerable among us, in their typical extremist fashion, leftist journalists and politicians attacked the effort to protect the most susceptible.”
When the AJC polled Georgia’s 49 district attorneys about how they would approach HB 481, most of those who responded said they would operate on a case-by-case basis.
But district attorneys from three heavily Democratic districts said they don’t intend to prosecute women or abortion providers.
One of them, Macon District Attorney David Cooke, speaking to The Daily Report, expressed concerns about Melvin’s stance considering his next job. Melvin, who became Cobb’s acting DA when Kemp named Vic Reynolds to lead the GBI, will soon become Reynolds’ top aide at the bureau.
“Should the GBI investigate any pre-term fetal death, he could influence any determination whether that woman’s conduct, including prenatal care, was reasonable, and whether anything she did, in his view, contributed to that infant’s death,” Cooke said. “Under this law, he can influence whether she is charged with a felony or not. In short, his views could shape whether or not she is charged with murder.”
Candidates, endorsements, etc.:
— A third Republican has joined the race in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Nicole Rodden announced her candidacy in a video clip, emphasizing her experience in the military, her faith and her multicultural background. Rodden’s mother is Ecuadorean, and her father is Greek. She is a former Merchant Marine and also worked for the offshore drilling contractor Transocean. Rodden said the party needs “a new face and a fresh perspective in Washington.” Also running on the GOP side are former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel of Roswell, who lost the seat to Democrat Lucy McBath in November, and state Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta.
— Democrat Marvin Lim is running for the Gwinnett-based state House seat that Lopez Romero would leave open to run in the 7th Congressional District. If Lim wins, his law firm, Holcomb + Ward LLP, could have its own caucus. State Rep. Scott Holcomb is a partner in Holcomb + Ward, and state Sen. Elena Parent is a commercial litigator in the firm.
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.