As we reported yesterday, Democrats in Georgia’s congressional delegation mostly avoided defending President Joe Biden’s decision to quickly withdraw American forces from Afghanistan. Instead, they have focused on the growing humanitarian crisis in the country that has unfolded as a result.
Georgia’s Washington Republicans, meanwhile, have torn into the president and mocked his post-election vow that he’ll ensure “America is back” on the world stage.
We were especially interested in the response from U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, who stayed silent most of Monday while his top Republican challengers for the U.S. Senate seat were blasting the White House for what they called weak-kneed leadership.
When Warnock did release a statement late Monday night, he said he was saddened by the events in Afghanistan and monitoring the situation, but he did not address Biden’s underlying strategy.
“My heart goes out to everyone seeking security in this tumultuous moment and the federal government must prioritize getting to safety Americans and our allies, especially Afghan citizens who fought beside our men and women in uniform.”
Biden’s foreign policy crisis emerged just as Democrats domestically were pushing to build more traction behind the bipartisan infrastructure proposal and the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that would vastly expand the nation’s social safety net.
Georgia Democrats have touted the details of both the infrastructure bill, which would send billions of dollars to Georgia for roads, bridges, and other projects in the state, along with the potentially historic expansion of social services in the larger measure.
We caught up with U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, the progressive Atlanta Democrat, to ask whether the Afghan crisis and the resurgence of the coronavirus will complicate the push to speedily pass the dual measures.
“I’ve been a member of Congress for eight months now and there’s never been a time where we focus on one singular thing,” she said. “It’s always been about delivering for the American people and we’re going to continue to do just that. And that makes sure we’re addressing a number of issues at the same time.”
Be sure to check out the work of three of our AJC colleagues -- Jeremy Redmon, Lautaro Grinspan and Paradise Afshar -- who spoke to Afghan immigrants in the Atlanta area about their worries for the women and girls who remain back home.
Gov. Brian Kemp announced additional measures, including state funding for more nursing staff, to help with the spike in Georgia’s COVID-19 hospitalizations.
But the help is only coming after some of the state’s hospitals have already reached-- and passed-- crisis stages.
In Americus, WALB-TV (Albany) reports the hospital there will no longer allow visitors in the E.R. and is having to take over office space to accommodate for the critical room shortage for patients sick with the deadly virus.
Due to an overwhelming volume of patients, Phoebe Sumter has temporarily suspended visitation in its emergency center.
“This morning, every room in our emergency center was occupied by a patient holding for admission. Unfortunately, that and long delays have become our daily experience rather than the exception, as we deal with the challenging impacts of this latest COVID surge," said Brandi Lunneborg, Phoebe Sumter Chief Executive Officer.
“We will soon take over office space adjacent to our ER to help with patient overflow, but right now we simply don't have room for visitors. Regretfully, except under a few exceptions, we have suspended visitation in our ER until our volume of patients slows down. We will work diligently to stay in communication with loved ones who cannot be at a patient's bedside, and we ask for their patience and understanding," Lunneborg added.
The New York Times reported late Monday that a New York man has pled guilty to threating to kill U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. The details are chilling.
A New York man who supported the far-right Proud Boys group pleaded guilty Monday to threatening to kill Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, before and during the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
The man, Eduard Florea, 41, of Queens pleaded guilty to posting violent threats against Warnock, who had just won a runoff election in Georgia for the Senate and was later sworn in Jan. 20. “Warnock is going to have a hard time casting votes for communist policies when he's swinging with the fish," Florea posted online Jan. 5, using an expletive before fish.
- The New York Times
The Times also reports Florea posted a message to the social media platform Parler referring to Warnock and writing, “Dead men can’t pass” laws.”
It wasn’t surprising to hear U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson bash the Democratic plans to spend more than $4.5 trillion on social safety programs and infrastructure as “one of the most reckless spending bills in the history of our country.”
It was, however, a bit jarring to hear Ferguson cheer on U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, the Gwinnett County Democrat who banded together with eight other moderates and threatened to derail the budget plan if it’s not pared back.
“Keep an eye on the infrastructure bill, but also keep an eye on the reconciliation bill,” he told a crowd at the Redneck Gourmet restaurant at a town hall in downtown Newnan.
“We’re trying to find at least three Democrats who will push back,” Ferguson said, praising the moderate holdouts. But then he added, “But every time we need them to stand up, they fold like a cheap lawn chair.”
Bordeaux doesn’t need to worry about disappointing conservative House Republicans, but she may need to keep an eye on Democrats back home. We’ve been hearing from progressive activists frustrated with Bourdeaux’s recent moves, which they worry could jeopardize the larger social services package.
In a close 2022 election, Bordeaux can’t afford to lose support from either side of her political spectrum of supporters.
In more news from Newnan’s Redneck Gourmet, U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson stood apart from some of his fellow Republicans in the Georgia delegation when he vouched for the safety of the vaccines against COVID-19.
One of your Insiders was on hand for a town hall meeting Monday as the Republican from West Point stood in front of a table of anti-vaxxers, including one with a copy of a book called “the truth about covid-19.”
The congressman said he doesn’t think anyone should be mandated to take a vaccine, to shouts of “Amen!”
But he added that his greatest fear is reaching a point when hospitals exceed their capacity and sick people are turned away.
“Bottom line: I think the vaccine is safe. I base that off of what I’ve seen. But ultimately it’s up to you to have the conversation with your doctor, get the right information and get vaccinated. But we can’t have the economy shut down again. Let’s have those conversations. Let’s talk to your doctor. Do not make your treatment decision based on something you’ve heard on the internet.”
So far, just 41% of Georgians are fully vaccinated.
Bright and early this morning, former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is lining up to qualify to run for his old job. Throughout the qualifying period, the other top contenders will also file their paperwork to get on the November ballot.
But one that won’t be showing up this week is former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. She had long flirted with a run for mayor, and we’re told she came close to announcing a campaign earlier this month before ultimately deciding otherwise.
The Atlanta City Council voted Monday to table plans for a controversial new first responders training facility that would have been built on land the city owns in DeKalb County, the AJC’s J.D. Capelouto and Anjali Huynh write:
The closely watched vote and discussion followed weeks of debate over the plan to convert 85 acres of land at the site of the old Atlanta prison farm into a state-of-the-art training center, which supporters say is essential to bolster the city's police and fire forces.
But activists and residents have protested the idea, saying it was conceived outside of public view and could harm the natural wildlife at the site, which is located just east of Atlanta city limits on Key Road in DeKalb County.
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
About 1.6 million Georgians will see an increase in their monthly food stamps benefit under a program boost that President Joe Biden’s administration announced Monday morning. Read more from the AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu.
Kasim Reed may have raised the most money so far in the Atlanta mayor’s race, but City Council President Felicia Moore has the most donors.
That stat was among the revelations in the latest “Race for City Hall” weekly roundup from the AJC’s Wilborn Nobles and J.D. Capelouto, which you’ll find every Monday at AJC.com.
In #GaPol personnel news, Murphy Talmadge, a veteran lobbyist, has joined the Georgia arm of Squire Patton Boggs, a team that now includes Ambassador Randy Evans and former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston.
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