The Jolt: Biden’s $1.9T aid package is already factoring into Georgia’s 2022 election

“Georgia made this possible.”

That was the reaction on social media from many state Democrats this week about the sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that is expected to soon pass the U.S. Senate after an agonizing procedural process.

But it might as well sum up Republican attacks who want to make U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock pay in 2022 for backing a measure they see as too unwieldy and wasteful.

Senate Republicans are pulling out the stops to delay and muddy the proceedings to approve the relief package that’s President Joe Biden’s top priority — and indeed wouldn’t have been possible without the Democratic sweep of Georgia’s runoff races.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin forced clerks to spend nearly 11 hours reading all 628 pages of the bill aloud. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spun that as a positive: “Why not let Americans hear all the good things that the American Rescue Plan contains?” he basically said.

When debate on amendments begins later Friday, it will serve as a reminder of how Democrats aim to make the package a centerpiece for the 2022 election campaigns — and how Republicans hope to weaponize their support for the bill to mobilize conservatives.

There are likely to be dozens of amendments filed by Republicans that are more intended for “gotcha” votes than attempts to improve the legislation. But there are also good-faith efforts underway.

In today’s paper, we outline how U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, wants to see more money targeted for improving vaccination rates in Black communities. And Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee, is part of a group suggesting ways to make the package smaller and more flexible as states recover economically.

Also, expect amendments seeking to recalculate the complex formula that guides how roughly $340 billion in direct aid is allocated to state and local governments.

Gov. Brian Kemp is among roughly two dozen state leaders who say it creates an “unlevel playing field” because it relies too heavily on jobless rates that punish Georgia and other states with more robust economies. He said Georgia is short-changed by nearly $1.3 billion, and has letters from the Georgia Chamber and the Metro Atlanta Chamber urging Sens. Jon Ossoff and Warnock to recalibrate the formula.

It’s an early glimpse of the fire Warnock is already taking ahead of the 2022 election, when he’s up for a full six-year term. He’s fully embraced the package, saying it’s what Georgians “have long needed but wasn’t possible before.”

Indeed, it’s all but impossible for Republicans to stop this juggernaut. Senate Democrats will ensure all 50 members vote in a bloc, and Vice President Kamala Harris will break any tie.

Still, this latest round of COVID-19 stimulus remains a highly partisan topic in the U.S. Capitol even if it is generally popular among Americans.

Of course, Georgia remains a huge factor in it all. Here are some points made by a Bloomberg reporter about the ways Georgia’s Democratic duo have influenced the debate on COVID-19 relief in Washington:

  • Back in December, Republicans agreed to a $900 billion stimulus bill partially because incumbent GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were facing so much heat on the campaign trail.
  • The size of the current package is higher because Democrats are now in the majority due to Ossoff and Warnock’s win. Remember, Senate Republicans had originally proposed spending $600 billion, or $1.3 trillion less. The current bill also includes state and local funding, which Republicans blocked from earlier packages.

“We’re in an era where Senate races might approach a billion dollars, but that’s still way, way, way, way below the potential $$$ impact of 1 Senate seat,” Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis wrote.

That narrow Democratic majority is important to keep in mind, even as COVID relief appears to be moving in the right direction for the party’s leaders. They are on pace to meet the March 14 deadline to approve the new law and prevent existing unemployment benefits from expiring.

But what happens after that? Biden has hinted that a massive infrastructure package is next on his agenda. That could be another high-dollar proposal that clashes with Republican concerns about increasing the national debt.

And that could pave the way for another vote that could help set the stage for 2022.

About our coverage

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is tracking the money coming into Georgia from the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package. Journalists from across the newsroom will document how the money is administered and spent, whether it accomplishes its goals and whether it creates any unintended consequences. It is part of our commitment to hold government accountable and show our readers how government action affects their lives. Our journalists work hard to be fair and will follow this complex story as it unfolds in the coming months and years.

Latest coverage of the $1.9 trillion stimulus

What the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus means for U.S., Georgia

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Reading the tea leaves: Opponents of the GOP push to restrict voting rights in the Georgia Senate are feeling more optimistic they can defeat a measure that’s set for a Monday vote that would end no-excuse absentee voting.

If Democrats hold together, they need five GOP defections in the state Senate to sink the measure. And critics are increasingly confident they can get to that number through a combination of absences and pledges of “no” votes.

If there’s a late push to pull the provision — or overhaul it in the Senate Rules Committee — you’ll know why.

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The left-leaning Progressive Change Institute published a poll conducted by ALG Research that found a slim majority of Georgians (52%) backed the push to hike the minimum wage to $15.

Support among Democrats soared to 85% while only 18% of Republicans endorsed the increase. Independents were split roughly down the middle with 51% behind the idea.

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An analysis by the Secure Democracy ballot access group found that Republican voters relied heavily on early-voting and mail-in ballots in Georgia during the 2020 cycle.

Among the findings:

  • In Georgia’s 2020 primary election, Republicans actually cast more absentee ballots than Democrats and voted absentee at a higher rate than Democrats.
  • Of the 12,100 Republican donors in Georgia, 60% voted early and 38% voted absentee.
  • In Georgia’s rural counties, more Republicans voted early than Democrats.
  • In both the 2020 primary and general election, Republican veterans and active duty service members were four times more likely to vote early than on Election Day and twice as likely to cast an absentee ballot than vote in-person on Election Day.

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Former President Donald Trump speaks during CPAC at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)
Former President Donald Trump speaks during CPAC at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Former President Donald Trump put out a statement Thursday riddled with falsehoods blaming Gov. Brian Kemp and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the Democratic sweep of Georgia’s Senate runoffs — and not his single-minded focus on overturning his election defeat and lies about a “rigged election.”

We’ll leave it at that.

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A powerful U.S. House Democrat has released a report about the social media posts of every House Republican who voted to reject Electoral College votes cast in swing states won by President Joe Biden.

Not surprisingly, the Georgia section is rather long.

The review covers the period surrounding the general election, the Jan. 6 insurrection and former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who chairs the House Administration Committee, draws no conclusions in her review. But she mentions the Fourteenth Amendment, which allows lawmakers to be disciplined or expelled if they “engaged in insurrection.”

Lofgren leaves it up to her colleagues — and the public — to decide if these social media musings are enough to trigger an investigation. The Georgia lawmakers listed in the report are U.S. Reps. Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, Andrew Clyde, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk. She has the report, including state-specific chapters, available for download.

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