PG A.M.: Biden administration floats Medicaid expansion workaround

Your daily jolt of news and analysis from the AJC politics team

President Joe Biden is pressing a different tack to urge Georgia and other states that have not yet expanded Medicaid to add more residents to their public health care rolls.

The president’s recently released budget proposal includes incentives for the states to embrace the expansion, something his proposal called “critical” for rural communities in particular.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said during a call marking Obamacare’s 14th anniversary that 3.5 million more Americans could qualify for coverage if the holdouts reversed course.

“The president is intent on making sure everyone has access,” said Becerra. “And while 40 states have seen the wisdom of providing health care coverage and peace of mind to their residents.”

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks at a news conference on Medicaid expansion in Washington in 2021.

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

A divided Congress, of course, isn’t likely to accept Biden’s budget plan. But they amount to a starting point in a new round of fraught discussions.

Already, Georgia U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock secured $1.2 billion in incentives in the 2021 coronavirus relief package to speed an expansion.

That’s something Democrats were keen to bring up last week during a surprise state Senate committee vote on expanding the program. The effort narrowly failed amid entrenched GOP opposition, all but guaranteeing the Georgia Legislature won’t expand Medicaid during the 2024 session, which closes Thursday.

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Georgia's U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, voted against the government spending package last week.

Credit: Tia Mitchell/AJC

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Credit: Tia Mitchell/AJC

GOVERNMENT FUNDING DEAL. Technically, the federal government experienced a partial shutdown over the weekend. But it was brief as Congress approved and President Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion spending package that ensures long-term funding for all agencies.

More than half of Republicans voted against the bill. Among them was U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, who for the first time broke with House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and joined the chorus of GOP critics who said the spending deal did not reflect their conservative priorities.

“I voted against this legislation because it contained millions of dollars for partisan Democratic funding projects from the Senate that I disagree with,” Scott wrote in an email to constituents. “It is wrong to tie appropriations with leftist priorities instead of border security, and 111 Republicans joined me in voting no for this legislation.”

Only two Georgia Republicans supported the measure: Reps. Buddy Carter of St. Simons Island and Drew Ferguson of The Rock. Ferguson is among the growing list of Republicans who won’t be returning for another term.

The Senate passed the bill around 2 a.m. on Saturday and Biden signed it into law later in the morning.

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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, on Friday took the first step toward ousting House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Credit: Kent Nishimura/The New York Times

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Credit: Kent Nishimura/The New York Times

GREENE MOVES AGAINST JOHNSON. Passing of a long-term spending package means government funding is now in place and threats of a shutdown are off the table until the fall.

But things are only getting worse for House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., since the measure approved by the House on Friday broke one of the Republican Party’s unofficial rules: GOP leadership put a bill on the floor that did not have the support of at least half of members.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has never been a fan of the House’s new leader, decided she had enough and filed a resolution calling for Johnson to be removed from his post. But Greene did not immediately act on her resolution, and the House is now on a two-week Easter break.

That gives Johnson’s allies time to convince Greene to drop her quest. It remains to be seen whether the days off will amount to a cooling off period or whether Greene will come back to Washington hot to move forward with a roll call vote on Johnson’s fate.

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House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is facing calls for his ouster from members of his party.

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

‘CREW OF VANDALS’? The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board took U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to task Friday after the Rome Republican announced she’s filed a motion to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., from his leadership post. The move comes just months after House Republicans’ decision to do the same to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

From the Journal:

Politics isn't the art of the impossible, but Ms. Greene and her crew of vandals prefer to scream and throw soup at the walls, like those climate-change protesters who think their ludicrous gestures are accomplishing something. They have no strategy for achieving the conservative victories they claim to want, beyond shutting down the government and shouting for the cameras that everyone else is a sellout."

- Wall Street Journal editorial board

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U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., is touring the Port of Savannah on Monday with Gov. Brian Kemp and others.

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

DEEPENING DIVE. Why does it matter that U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, a Republican from Missouri, is touring the Port of Savannah on Monday alongside Gov. Brian Kemp and two Georgia congressmen? Because Graves is the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which determines the projects to be included in this year’s renewal of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

The Georgia Ports Authority wants a study into deepening the Savannah River shipping channel to be part of the next WRDA. The governor and Georgia’s congressional delegation have backed the ask, and Monday’s visit gives Graves a firsthand look at the East Coast’s second busiest container port.

Joining Graves and Kemp will be Reps. Buddy Carter, R-St. Simons Island, and Mike Collins, R-Jackson. Both are members of Graves’ committee.

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CLIMATE CHANGE. The Climate Power advocacy group is spending $270,000 on a digital ad buy in Georgia targeting young voters and suburban women.

The two ads are part of an overall $2 million touting President Joe Biden’s green energy policies that are also running in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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State Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, presented House Bill 1105 to the Senate Public Safety Committee at the Capitol in Atlanta  earlier this month.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

FINAL SPRINT. State lawmakers begin their final week of the 2023-2024 session today with committee hearings in preparation for the last two legislative days of the year.

Among the bills that moved last week were:

  • Republican state senators passed legislation Thursday, House Bill 301 and HB 1105, that aim to force local government officials, including sheriffs, to comply with federal immigration laws and punish those who don’t.
  • House Resolution 1042, which would let voters decide on a hefty pay hike for Georgia judges, passed the Senate Budget Committee and is on its way to the full Senate for a vote.
  • Senate Bill 368, which would bar foreign campaign donations to state candidates, campaigns, and political action committees, won final approval from the House and awaits the governor’s signature.
  • HB 976, a bill setting the rules for a person or group to challenge other voters’ eligibility, passed the Senate Ethics Committee. It is one of nine pending bills related to changing Georgia elections that could still advance this session.

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FILM TAX. As Georgia lawmakers consider changes to the state’s lucrative film tax credit, the program’s boosters are taking the temperature of voters.

A poll of 1,000 likely voters conducted by FGS Global found more than three-quarters say the film and TV industry has a positive impact on the state’s economy and view it as “essential.”

Notably, that includes a broad majority of likely GOP voters. Only about 12% said they see the industry in a negative light.

You can find your copy of the findings here.

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State Rep. Bill Werkheiser, R-Glennville, favors barring the death penalty for people with intellectual disabilities.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

DEATH PENALTY. Following the execution of Willie James Pye last week, Georgia lawmakers will consider barring the death penalty for people with intellectual disabilities.

State Rep. Bill Werkheiser, R-Glennville, said the change is needed after the execution of Pye, whose attorneys argued had diminished mental capacity and an IQ of 68.

Twenty-seven states allow capital punishment, but Werkheiser said Georgia is the only state that still executes people with intellectual disabilities.

“No matter where you fall on the death penalty, I think that’s probably a step too far,” Werkheiser told the House in a speech Thursday night.

Werkheiser introduced a death penalty bill in January, but it didn’t pass the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

Under House Bill 1014, prosecutors couldn’t seek the death penalty when, after a pretrial hearing, a judge rules that a defendant has an intellectual disability.

Werkheiser said all parties agreed to work on the proposal before next year’s legislative session.

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The Georgia State Capitol.

Credit: Casey Sykes for the AJC

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Credit: Casey Sykes for the AJC

UNDER THE GOLD DOME:

  • The House and Senate are out of session for a committee workday.
  • Floor sessions resume Tuesday, with Sine Die scheduled for Thursday.

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Andy Miller (left) of Georgia Health News is a guest on the "Politically Georgia" show today.

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the AJC

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Credit: Rebecca Wright for the AJC

LISTEN UP. Tune into the “Politically Georgia” radio show this morning to hear political insights from WABE political commentators Brian Robinson and Tharon Johnson. Georgia Health News editor Andy Miller also joins the program to talk about the maneuverings during the legislative session related to Medicaid expansion.

Listen live at 10 a.m. on 90.1 FM, at AJC.com and at WABE.org.

On Friday’s show, former Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan gave his first expansive interview since deciding against running for president under the “No Labels” third party ticket. Immigration attorney Judith Delus Montgomery also joined to discuss the factors contributing to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Marine One, carrying President Joe Biden, recently passed the Washington Monument as it prepares to land on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.

Credit: Cliff Owen/AP

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Credit: Cliff Owen/AP

TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden has no public events on his schedule.
  • The House and Senate are on a two-week Easter break.

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Senate Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., was the primary sponsor of the legislation in the Senate to rename the VA regional office in Decatur after the late Sen.  Johnny Isakson.

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

ISAKSON DEDICATION. Members of late Sen. Johnny Isakson’s family will join Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough and members of Georgia’s congressional delegation for a ceremony today to rename the VA regional office in Decatur after Isakson.

Sen. Jon Ossoff, the Atlanta Democrat who was the primary sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, will be among the lawmakers at the event.

“Sen. Isakson was committed to Georgia’s veterans and military families, and he was committed to bringing Republicans and Democrats together to do what’s right for the nation and for Georgia,” Ossoff said in a news release. “It was an honor to help lead this bipartisan effort to rename the Atlanta Regional Office as the Isakson VA Atlanta Regional Office in recognition of Senator Isakson’s extraordinary service.”

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Vera Feiler calls Atlanta's Laura Adams and Andrew Feiler her people.

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

DOG OF THE DAY. If there’s anything better than a dog, it’s a dog who can read. So let’s meet Vera Feiler, the literate pup who calls Atlanta’s Laura Adams and Andrew Feiler her people.

Along with pawing the pages, Vera spends her days exercising her people on the Beltline and hanging out with past Dog of the Day winner, Rhett Butler Hughes. Now they’ll have even more to talk about other than what their people do all day and being best pooch pals. Maybe someday, they can write a book about it.

Send us your dogs of any political persuasion, and cats on a cat-by-cat basis, to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, or DM us at @MurphyAJC.

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AS ALWAYS, Politically Georgia readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to greg.bluestein@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com, patricia.murphy@ajc.com and adam.vanbrimmer@ajc.com.