PG A.M.: Warnock tries to jolt state GOP lawmakers into expanding Medicaid

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U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is urging Georgia lawmakers to expand Medicaid. (Olivia Bowdoin for the AJC).

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin for the AJC

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin for the AJC

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is urging Georgia lawmakers to expand Medicaid. (Olivia Bowdoin for the AJC).

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock crisscrossed Georgia during his 2022 reelection campaign urging lawmakers to expand Medicaid. This week, he brought his message directly to the General Assembly at a pivotal moment.

“I believe that the time is now and I hope that the state legislature will find a path to getting this done,” he told lawmakers, adding that he’s “heartened” at the prospect of a bipartisan compromise.

He reminded legislators that he and U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff secured $1.2 billion in incentives in the 2021 coronavirus relief package to speed an expansion.

State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, spoke at a panel discussion on Medicaid expansion alternatives this week at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta. (Ariel Hart/ariel.hart@ajc.com)

Credit: Ariel Hart/AJC

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Credit: Ariel Hart/AJC

Whether Georgia Republicans will press for an expansion of Medicaid modeled after the Arkansas “private option” waiver is still a mystery. Here’s what we know about the key outstanding questions:

Where’s the bill? Lt. Gov. Burt Jones told us this week he’s “heard rumors, nothing concrete, that the House is going to come with a proposal of some sort.” And he said it must be tied to an effort to roll back “certificate of need” regulations on new hospitals. Meanwhile, we’re told that House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, is warming to the idea of expanding the program. Even so, supporters say no draft measure is immediately forthcoming with nearly a third of the session under wraps.

What will it take to pass it? Some supporters are confident they have the votes to push through a Medicaid measure if they rely on help from Democrats, who have long advocated for a full-fledged expansion. But GOP leaders will have to decide how heavily they will have to lean on bipartisan backing if Republicans are relatively divided over the effort.

Where does Gov. Brian Kemp stand? State lawmakers passed a measure in 2014 that required legislative approval before expanding Medicaid. But Kemp would still get the final say, and word from several lawmakers is that his camp sent word he is skeptical of an expansion but has left it an open question whether he’d approve a law that adds Georgia to the 40 other states that have expanded the program’s rolls.

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REST IN PEACE. The Gold Dome on Tuesday grieved the death of Georgia state Rep. Richard Smith, who led the powerful House Rules Committee that sets the agenda for votes in the state House. The Columbus Republican died at the age of 78 after fighting the flu, leaving his friends, family and colleagues stunned. Smith’s desk in the House chamber was shrouded with a black drape and adorned with white flowers Tuesday as members wept and honored their friend.

Gov. Brian Kemp went to the well to remember Smith, as did House Speaker Jon Burns, who called Smith, “a cherished member of this family.”

Kaleb McMichen, a longtime House aide, told us of Smith, “He’s one of those who deserves a statue in his honor — and would have been repulsed at such a thought.”

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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 13:

  • 8:00 a.m.: Committee meetings begin.
  • 10 a.m.: The House gavels in.
  • 10 a.m.: The Senate convenes.

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State Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Gwinnett, is the primary author of Senate Bill 386 on sports betting.  (Natrice Miller/natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

OUT OF THE HOPPER. Legislation is on the move as lawmakers hit their stride. Among the bills advancing this week:

  • Senate Bill 386, the bill to greenlight sports betting in Georgia by adding it to the Georgia Lottery, passed the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee on an 8-2 vote. But not before hearing objections from religious leaders and PrizePicks, a Midtown Atlanta-based fantasy sports company with 450 employees that said it would be hurt by the Georgia bill as written. Look for the measure to come up for a vote in the Senate as soon as Thursday.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp will sign House Bill 30, which adds antisemitism to Georgia’s hate crimes statute, this afternoon.

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(L-R) Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp will join Donald Trump Jr. at next month’s Mock Convention — a quadrennial event held by Washington and Lee University.  (Arvin Temkar/arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

2028 WATCH. Gov. Brian Kemp and two other high-profile Republicans considered potential candidates for president in future election cycles will participate at next month’s Mock Convention — a quadrennial event held by Washington and Lee University.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Donald Trump Jr., son of the former president, will join Kemp at the Feb. 10 event modeled after the nominating convention. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who recently quit his 2024 presidential bid, will also speak.

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The Fair Fight political and advocacy organization that Stacey Abrams (left )founded is laying off staffers, Lauren Groh-Wargo (right) is returning as interim chief executive (Alyssa Pointer/AJC)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

FAIR FIGHT FINANCIALS. When the story of the 2024 race in Georgia is written, Fair Fight might merit its own chapter.

Once a fundraising juggernaut, the political advocacy group founded by Stacey Abrams has fallen on hard financial times after raising more than $100 million in its early years. On Tuesday, the group’s leaders announced plans to lay off 20 staffers and scale back operations.

There was a reason many Republicans responded in glee, and it’s not just because of the group’s constant stream of attacks against GOP leaders and their policies. The news means Fair Fight will have fewer resources to devote to organizing and mobilizing left-leaning voters to turn out for Democratic candidates ahead of the 2024 race.

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BORDER DEAL BUST. A bipartisan effort to combine Ukraine aid with new limits on migrant crossings at the Southern border is “dead,” according to House Speaker Mike Johnson. The Louisiana Republican told CNN he’s spoken at length about the Senate-crafted border deal with former President Donald Trump but said Trump’s demand over the weekend that the House kill the bill was not the reason the measure is a no-go.

Trump’s attack on the rare bipartisan agreement in the Senate led Georgia’s U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff to fire off a rare statement calling the border chaos a national security issue and hammering the former president’s “sabotage.”

U.S. Senate Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., has been critical of former President Donald Trump's comments on bipartisan efforts on border security.  (Nathan Posner for the AJC)

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

“Despite the urgency of this bipartisan effort, Donald Trump this week launched a self-serving campaign to sabotage it so he can wield the border as an election issue,” said Ossoff, an Atlanta Democrat.

Although Ossoff called on Republicans to ignore Trump’s input, House GOP leaders made it clear the border effort is not getting their support.

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LATE NIGHT. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorkas has moved closer to becoming the first cabinet member impeached in 150 years. The House Homeland Security Committee advanced articles of impeachment against him early Wednesday morning.

Republicans on the committee voted together to move the resolution to a full House vote after 15 hours of debate that wrapped up after midnight. A date for the impeachment vote has not been set.

Should Mayorkas be impeached in the House, the Senate would still have to vote to remove him from his office. His ouster is unlikely because the Senate is controlled by Democrats and Mayorkas was appointed by President Joe Biden, also a Democrat.

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis reacts as she speaks during a worship service at the Big Bethel AME Church, where she was invited as a guest speaker on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, in Atlanta.
(Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com)

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

LISTEN UP. The authors of “Find Me the Votes,” a new book about former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 Georgia election, joined the “Politically Georgia” radio show on Monday to discuss their scoops and observations.

Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman discussed the “firewall” of Georgia Republicans who thwarted Trump’s efforts in the state, the firestorm currently surrounding Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, and what the late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson told Trump when the former president said he was the most popular Republican in Georgia.

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

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Fulton County special prosecutor Nathan Wade has reached a temporary divorce settlement with his estranged wife. (Arvin Temkar/arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

WADE DIVORCE DETENTE. Fulton County special prosecutor Nathan Wade has reached a temporary divorce settlement with his estranged wife. If approved, the agreement could prevent any testimony from Wade or Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis in the divorce proceedings.

The AJC’s Bill Rankin and Charles Minshew reported that a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday was canceled. It had been expected that Wade would face questioning then about his relationship with Willis. The settlement also means Willis is likely to avoid testifying in the case.

Still, the court filings in the election interference case against former President Donald Trump and others that accuse Wade and Willis of having an improper romantic relationship are still pending. Willis has been told by Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to respond to those allegations by Friday.

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TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden has no public events on his schedule.
  • The U.S. House is in session with lawmakers in legislative committee meetings.
  • The Senate has judicial confirmation votes lined up.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing with the CEOs of social media sites on the topic of online child sexual exploitation.
  • The Federal Reserve will hold its first rate meeting of 2024 amid questions about whether softening inflation will lead to interest rate cuts.

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Left to right: Spc. Kennedy Sanders, Sgt. William Jerome Rivers and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett. The three U.S. Army Reserve soldiers from Georgia were killed by a drone strike Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024, on their base in Jordan near the Syrian border. (Shawn Sanders and U.S. Army via AP)

Credit: U.S. Army via AP

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Credit: U.S. Army via AP

MOMENT OF SILENCE. All 14 members of Georgia’s U.S. House gathered Tuesday to pay tribute to the three Army reservists killed in a drone attack in Jordan over the weekend. The three service members were Georgia residents.

U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter and Drew Ferguson shared what they had learned about Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, Sgt. William Jerome Rivers and Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, who were based at Fort Moore near Columbus. Then the lawmakers, joined by a handful of colleagues from other states, paused for a moment of silence.

“Our brave service members put their lives on the line every day, and we owe our freedom and security to them,” Carter, R-St. Simon Island, said.

Also on Tuesday, President Joe Biden made good on his reputation as consoler-in-chief, placing calls to the service members’ families. He told Sanders’ parents he was posthumously promoting her to the rank of sergeant.

Biden separately told reporters that he had decided on a response to the deadly Jordan attack, declining to share specifics but saying he wanted to ensure any U.S. action did not expand the war in the Middle East.

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Gravy Allen met his forever family at Thanksgiving dinner in 2023, the same night the Allen family noticed he was the exact color of the gravy on the table. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

DOG OF THE DAY. It’s time to meet little Gravy Allen, the long-haired Chihuahua who calls the Allen family of Atlanta his people.

Rescued on the side of a California highway, Gravy got his name on Thanksgiving night when his foster mom brought him along to a dinner where the Allen family were also guests. It didn’t take long for the four Allen kids to nickname him “Gravy,” since he was the same color as the famous turkey sauce. The family also realized they couldn’t go home without him.

Now in his forever home, Gravy enjoys walks with his person, Melissa, alerting the home to Amazon deliveries, and being thankful for the family he got on Thanksgiving.

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.