The Week: On Charlottesville and DACA, Isakson strays off GOP path

Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson joined in a bipartisan effort this week to pass a resolution calling on President Donald Trump to take a stronger stand against white supremacists following last month’s fatal violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Georgia’s senior U.S. senator spent the past week putting a little distance between himself and the man he backed for president, as well as his own party.

First, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson tried to pressure President Donald Trump to take a stronger stand against white supremacists following last month's fatal violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Isakson joined a bipartisan group of senators in introducing a joint resolution that calls on the Trump administration to improve data collection on hate crimes and coordinate plans to address the “growing prevalence” of hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. It also labeled the events in Charlottesville as a “domestic terrorist attack.”

The senator has been more critical of Trump’s response to Charlottesville than many of his Republican colleagues, saying that the president should have condemned the violence faster and more decisively. But he stopped short of denouncing Trump on personal terms.

Isakson also strayed a bit off the Republican path in response to Trump's decision to end protections for illegal immigrants who were brought here as children, giving Congress six months to find a resolution.

Republicans tried to keep their comments focused on law and order, questioning the constitutionality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Barack Obama enacted in 2012.

But Isakson, while supporting Trump’s decision, also said something needs to be done to help the young immigrants.

“Children who received status under President Obama’s deferred action executive order should not be punished for their parents’ choices,” Isakson said in a statement. “Congress should protect these young people while also working toward stronger measures to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws going forward.”

But both of Georgia’s U.S. senators suggested that they would back the deal to keep the government open for three months without any spending cuts. The possibility of the government defaulting on its debt seemed to be the biggest concern for both David Perdue and Isakson.

“If you default, you raise the prices of everything: interest, mortgage, loans, everything else,” Isakson said. “Any good business person will tell you defaulting on your debt is not a good idea.”

Both Republicans said they were frustrated by the debt load the country has amassed in recent years and suggested Congress change its spending habits and budget process.

“We’ve got to get serious about this long-term crisis that we’ve got relative to the debt,” Perdue said. “Every dollar that we’re going to allocate toward Harvey, as an example, every dime of that is borrowed money.”

It was a significant departure from what happened in 2013, when Congress approved emergency spending for recovery after Superstorm Sandy ripped up much of the Northeast. That was a much larger bill — $50 billion — and it divided the Georgia delegation along party lines. Many Republicans criticized the Sandy bill as being filled with pork, prompting disputes from lawmakers from affected areas in New York and New Jersey.

The final vote on the Harvey bill was 419-3, compared with Sandy’s 241-180.

  • She's walked the walk, she'll direct the talk: When Georgia's two Democratic candidates for governor hold their first formal "conversation" — the term "debate" has been discouraged — the moderator will be someone who's treaded across a similar battleground.

Former Secretary of State Cathy Cox, who lost a fight for the party’s nomination for governor in 2006, will be there to guide former state Reps. Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans through their discussion on Oct. 2.

Georgia’s WIN List, a political action committee focused on the election of Democratic women who support abortion rights, will host the event. It should be a friendly — at least neutral — atmosphere for both Abrams and Evans. Each has served on the organization’s board.

Jeffares just happens to be running for the job, facing off against a pair of fellow Republicans, Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer and former state Rep. Geoff Duncan.

“I believe that term limits are good for politicians, their constituents and democracy itself,” Jeffares said. “Citizens should serve, contribute their ideas and passion, then return to the private sector to live under the laws they pass.”

Lieutenant governor is still a relatively new position in Georgia, only becoming a reality after World War II. Its biggest function tends to be presiding over the state Senate, giving people who hold the office a lot of power in saying what measures live or die during a legislative session. The current lieutenant governor, Casey Cagle, is in his third term.

Some of his Republican rivals in the race objected to Cagle’s celebration of new alcohol rules that took effect last week allowing craft brewers and distilleries to sell directly to customers.

Former state Sen. Hunter HIll and state Sen. Michael Williams, who both supported the legislation allowing direct sales, blasted Cagle as an obstructionist.

But the head of Georgia’s craft brewing industry association disputed their accusations, calling Cagle pivotal to the bill’s passage.

Cagle has not said much publicly about his past stances on the legislation. But his campaign manager, Scott Binkley, said Cagle brought competing interests to the table this year to hash out an agreement and then offered a bit of a lesson in political chemistry.

“After he separated the wheat from the chafe, the yeast really rose to the top to create a great final product that’s creating Georgia small business jobs and allowing consumers to buy local,” Binkley said.

  • Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

— Only hours after state Rep. Stacey Evans resigned from the state House to focus on her run for governor, Smyrna City Councilwoman Teri Anulewicz said she was going to resign from her seat to run for Evans' old job, The Marietta Daily Journal reported.

— Bruce McPherson, 33, has entered the race for the GOP nomination to run against U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop in South Georgia's 2nd Congressional District. McPherson served 10 years in the military, including two deployments in Afghanistan. Also running for the Republican nomination is Herman West, a Randolph County native and a brother of former U.S. Rep. Allen West of Florida. Several other GOP officials are said to be considering entering the race.

The week in Georgia politics

Here's a look at some of the political and government stories that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's staff broke online during the past week. To see more of them, go to http://www.myAJC.com.

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