PG A.M.: Kemp tells AJC Biden’s embrace of border bill is ‘completely political’

Your daily jolt of news and analysis from the AJC politics team
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at a news conference about border policies, in Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at a news conference about border policies, in Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Gov. Brian Kemp has long demanded that the Biden administration take more action to stop the flow of migrant crossings at the United States’ Southern border.

But when President Joe Biden threw his weight behind new border security legislation crafted by Senate Republicans and Democrats, Kemp called Biden’s embrace of the measure “completely political” with the 2024 election around the corner.

“I think it represents President Biden trying to flip-flop on what his real position is, from what he campaigned on,” Kemp said in an interview Monday. Before focusing on broader immigration legislation, the Georgia governor said the administration should first close the Southern border to the thousands of people per day seeking asylum in the U.S.

“But that’s not what (Biden) is going to do because the base of his party won’t allow him to do it,” Kemp said.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., (left) and House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., are at odds over a border security bill. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP

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Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP

Kemp is hardly the only skeptic of the new border bill among Republicans. GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson declared the measure “dead on arrival” in his chamber. And before the details were hammered out, former President Donald Trump demanded that his party kill the bill to squeeze Biden in an election-year.

In a sign of how objectionable it is to the GOP rank-and-file, U.S. Rep. Mike Collins of Jackson sent a graphic social media post Sunday emphasizing he would definitely not be voting for the proposal.

The legislation itself would increase Border Patrol staff, add deportation flights to return migrants to their home countries, and cap the daily number of migrants allowed to cross the border seeking asylum. But it would not bar border crossings from asylum seekers entirely. The package also includes aid to Ukraine and Israel.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer noted that many Democrats also object to provisions of a deal opposed by progressive and pro-immigration blocs of the party’s base. But he pressed for a compromise, even as some Senate Republicans looked to block the bill.

“The $64,000 question now is whether or not senators can drown out the outside noise, drown out people like Donald Trump who want chaos and do the right thing for America,” Schumer said Monday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, seated center, is joined by fellow governors during a news conference along the Rio Grande on Feb. 4, 2024. (Eric Gay/AP)

Credit: Eric Gay/AP

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Credit: Eric Gay/AP

Kemp went to see the Southern border for himself Sunday when he joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and about a dozen other GOP governors for a news conference calling on Biden to close the border to the thousands of people per day seeking asylum in the U.S.

The governor deployed Georgia National Guard troops to the U.S. border in 2019 and a contingent of 29 are still stationed there. In the interview, Kemp didn’t rule out sending more, saying he has an “open mind.”

“I’m glad to try to send more resources and help, but I’d rather be answering the president’s call to send resources to protect the whole southern border — not just the southern border in Texas.”

And he sounded skeptical of adopting any new state-level crackdowns on illegal immigration, saying politicians should focus on toughening penalties on drug traffickers and stopping the “money train” at the border.

“I haven’t really seen anything that would be a pressing need. There may be something out there that I’m not aware of,” he said. “But to me, we need to close the southern border. That is the best answer to this problem.”

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VP SWING. Vice President Kamala Harris will be in Savannah this morning as part of her multi-stop “Reproductive Freedoms” tour. The trip is meant to target voters in states where legislatures have added abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

Today’s Savannah visit will be Harris’ third trip to Georgia in the last two months and her 11th to the state as vice president.

Savannah has been a popular spot for other Biden administration officials in recent months, with recent visits from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge.

The parade of administration officials is one more reminder of the key role Georgia is expected to play in President Joe Biden’s 2024 reelection bid.

First lady Jill Biden will be in Atlanta on Wednesday to highlight the importance of women’s health research during an event at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

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The Georgia State Capitol. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Casey Sykes

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Credit: Casey Sykes

UNDER THE GOLD DOME, Legislative Day 15:

  • 8 a.m.: Committee meetings begin.
  • 10 a.m.: The Senate gavels in.
  • 1 p.m.: The House convenes.

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, followed by special prosecutor Nathan Wade, right, are facing scrutiny from lawmakers. (John Bazemore/AP)

Credit: John Bazemore/AP

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Credit: John Bazemore/AP

ON THE AGENDA. Look for expected state Senate action Tuesday on House Bill 881, the bill to allow the new Prosecuting Attorneys Qualification Commission to begin its work. The House passed the measure last month.

A group of GOP state senators has already filed a complaint with the commission about Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Their complaint came months before the news broke of Willis’ romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she hired to help lead the investigation into former President Donald Trump.

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Former state Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, died at the age of 78 on Jan. 30, 2024. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

SMITH REMEMBERED. Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, House Speaker Jon Burns and hundreds of others were in Columbus on Monday to remember the late Republican state Rep. Richard Smith, who died last week after a brief illness.

State and local leaders described Smith as a family man, former Morgan County football hero, and champion for his Columbus community.

A crowning achievement for Smith, who was also the chairman of the powerful House Rules committee, was successfully convincing Mercer University to add a Columbus campus for its medical school. The campus now graduates about 60 new doctors per year, many of whom stay in west Georgia.

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U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., bluntly questioned Meta honcho Mark Zuckerberg during a recent hearing in Washington. (Natrice Miller/Natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

OSSOFF OFFLINE. Members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hammered social media CEOs during a hearing last week about the online threats their platforms pose to children.

One of the committee’s members, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia, bluntly questioned Meta honcho Mark Zuckerberg on his company’s targeted appeal to youngsters on Facebook and Instagram and failure to protect kids from abusive content online.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on Jan. 31, 2024. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

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Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

A day later, Ossoff called Martha Zoller’s WDUN radio show to discuss the hearing. Among the takeaways was that Ossoff won’t allow his two-year-old daughter “anywhere near a screen.”

“I don’t want her to begin to be exposed to the predatory software, apps, content that is meant to suck in children’s attention and addict them to the quick-hit stuff on social media,” Ossoff told Zoller.

On a related note, Ossoff also has refrained from sharing any photos of his daughter publicly or on social media. And after an early phase as a TikTok sensation, the senator has taken a deliberately offline approach to legislating.

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State Rep. Steven Sainz (left) will face Glenn Cook, a U.S. Navy veteran in the upcoming primary. Sainz is pictured with Rep. Vance Smith. (Hyosub Shin/hyosub.shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

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Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

COASTAL CHALLENGE. A Georgia House legislator considered a young up-and-comer in the Republican ranks will face a primary challenger in his Camden County-based district.

Rep. Steven Sainz, GOP chair of the General Assembly’s Future Caucus for lawmakers under the age of 45, will face Glenn Cook, a U.S. Navy veteran. Cook is currently an elected official, serving as the Satilla River Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor.

Sainz won office in 2019 and is also the chairman of the Special Rules committee. He’s a member of several of the House’s highest-profile committees, including Appropriations, Ways and Means, Public Safety and Homeland Security, Economic Development and Tourism and Defense and Veterans Affairs.

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Former federal judge Michael Luttig will be among the guests at an American Democracy roundtable next week at the State Bar of Georgia. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

ELECTION SECURITY. The American Bar Association will host some big legal names at a task force on American Democracy roundtable on Feb. 13 at the State Bar of Georgia.

The speakers include former federal judge Michael Luttig, who has argued that former President Donald Trump should be disqualified from running; Jeh Johnson, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; and Carly Fiorina, a longtime corporate executive and one-time presidential contender.

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Immigration lawyer Charles Kuck joined the Politically Georgia radio show to discuss the border and immigration legislation being debated in Washington. (AJC file photo)

Credit: AJC file photo

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Credit: AJC file photo

LISTEN UP. Immigration lawyer Charles Kuck joined the Politically Georgia radio show to discuss the border and immigration legislation being debated in Washington. And Emory University political science professor Andra Gillespie came on to discuss the South Carolina Democratic primary.

Coming up later today, GOP strategist Cody Hall and state Sen. Derek Mallow, D-Savannah, join the show to discuss Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Georgia and other news of the day.

Listen at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. And listen to Monday’s show live at 10 a.m. on WABE 90.1 FM, at AJC.com and at WABE.org.

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LOST IN TRANSLATION. Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s effort to censure a progressive Democrat has quickly fallen apart after some of the criticism was attributed to faulty translation.

Greene, R-Rome, took issue with reports that U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., stated during a recent speech that she was “Somalian first and Muslim second” and that she had promised to protect Somalia’s interests in the U.S.

Greene on Thursday introduced a resolution to rebuke Omar and strip her of committee assignments for allegedly making “treasonous statements.” That legislation was put on the fast-track with a potential vote as early as today.

A Georgia congresswoman wants to censure Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. (left). (Kenny Holston/The New York Times)

Credit: Kenny Holston/The New York Times

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Credit: Kenny Holston/The New York Times

But the same day Greene filed her paperwork, Omar and others were already pushing back on the criticism and saying she was being misquoted. The Minnesota Reformer reported that the outrage was based on a bad translation of Omar’s remarks from Somali to English.

“The translation animating her Republican critics — including Minnesota colleague U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, who called for her to ‘resign in disgrace’ — distorts Omar’s words, according to two independent translations obtained by the Reformer including one by a certified court interpreter,” the outlet said.

Now, Greene’s censure resolution is in limbo, Axios reports. The measure would need support from two-thirds of House members to pass. It appears that even some Republicans are questioning whether the legislation should come to the floor given the dispute over what Omar actually said.

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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill, Nov. 8, 2023, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

GREENER PASTURES. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, is finding more success with her other efforts against Democrats, including impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The Rules Committee on Monday voted along party lines to move forward on the impeachment.

Today, the House will take a procedural vote on whether to proceed. If that is approved, members will debate the impeachment resolution and vote this afternoon on whether to impeach Mayorkas.

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TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will host a reception at the White House in recognition of Black History Month.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Savannah to deliver a speech on abortion rights.
  • The U.S. House will consider articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
  • The House has scheduled a vote on standalone legislation to provide $17.6 billion in emergency funding to Israel.
  • The Senate has confirmations lined up, including whether to make Kurt Campbell the deputy secretary of state.

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Henry Schmidt, who weights 17 pounds, is proof that more is better. He lives with his people, AJC subscribers Paul and Lee Schmidt, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

DOG OF THE DAY. We all know the saying that “less is more.” But Henry Schmidt is here to prove that more is more.

This 17-pound hunk lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his people, AJC subscribers Paul and Lee Schmidt. But wait, there’s more. Henry also lives with two horses, two other cats, a bunch of toys, and Molly Brown Schmidt, the AJC Dog of the Day from Aug. 16, 2023.

That makes Henry, Molly and the Schmidts the AJC’s first family of double-dipper Dogs of the Day. We’re hoping for more.

Send us your dogs of any political persuasion and location, 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.