The Jolt: COVID relief will be at center of the storm in Georgia politics

01/04/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — President-elect Joe Biden makes remarks during a campaign rally for U.S. Senate Democrat candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood, Monday, January 4, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

01/04/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — President-elect Joe Biden makes remarks during a campaign rally for U.S. Senate Democrat candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood, Monday, January 4, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer /

The $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal is in the books. The $1,400 checks started hitting bank accounts over the weekend and more than $4 billion is headed for Georgia schools.

But the political battle over the legacy of the bill will unfold over months, maybe years.

In Georgia, it’s only just beginning. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris head to town on Friday to promote the measure, and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, facing re-election next year, toured vaccine clinics last week.

But expect an aggressive political back-and-forth to play out on the airwaves from major political groups, which are already digging in.

On Monday, the Democratic National Committee began financing a 60-second TV ad on Atlanta airwaves featuring clips from Biden’s “Help is Here” speech touting the economic benefits of the far-reaching stimulus plan.

Also, Unite the Country, a super PAC supporting President Joe Biden, will spend at least $1 million on a digital ad campaign celebrating his top priority being signed into law. The ads will run on devices in Georgia and four other swing states, Politico reported.

And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched digital ads reminding voters in two metro Atlanta swing districts that their representatives, Lucy McBath in the 6th and Carolyn Bourdeaux in the 7th, voted in favor of the measure.

That all comes on the heels of a National Republican Senatorial Committee ad last week criticizing Warnock’s support for the measure. Warnock, for his part, is happy to have that argument.

“The American Rescue Plan is about working families, ordinary people, trying to press their way through this pandemic,” Warnock said after visiting a pop-up vaccine clinic in southwest Atlanta. “And my message to them is help is on the way and relief is around the corner.”


Under the Gold Dome (Legislative Day 32):

  • 8:00 am: House and Senate Committee meetings begin, including House and Senate elections committee hearings scheduled in the afternoon;
  • 10:00 am: The House gavels in;
  • 10:00 am: The Senate convenes.


Last week, state Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler said she’s gotten a commitment from Republicans that a Democrat will serve on the conference committee for the major elections bills that have passed the House and Senate. The Stone Mountain Democrat said she was planning to tap state Sen. Harold Jones, D-Augusta, for the slot.

But John Porter, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s chief of staff, pushed back on that over the weekend in a tweet saying, “This is not true. There has been zero discussion between LG and anyone in (the) minority caucus about conferees on election bills.”

Note that Butler didn’t say Duncan was the Republican she’d talked to, although the LG will be the leader to name conferees. And Porter told us this morning Duncan has made “no promises to ANYONE” about conferees. Stay tuned…

UPDATE: Sen. Butler tells us she misspoke during her interview last week and that she’s had no discussions with Duncan about conferees on elections bills.

“I misspoke. I had talked with one of the chairmen on another issue, which was sports betting,” Butler said Monday morning. “So, when the question was put to me, I immediately thought of that and said that conference committee had been discussed. But not about elections.”


After facing mounting pressure to take a stand on proposed elections restrictions in the General Assembly, the Georgia Chamber released a new statement saying it “expressed concern and opposition to provisions” in House and Senate overhaul measures.

“As these two omnibus bills move through the legislative process, we will continue to work on ensuring both accessibility and security within our voting system.”

What it didn’t say was what those provisions were. The Metro Atlanta Chamber earlier specifically opposed measures that would limit absentee voting, while many of Georgia’s most powerful corporations have refused to take a position.

They face calls from a coalition of voting rights organizations, along with Stacey Abrams, to take more tangible action. The groups, including the Georgia NAACP and Black Voters Matter, slammed the Georgia Chamber for its approach.

From the statement:

“Silence is not an option -- it is time for corporations to stand with the voters who make up the new Georgia. We call on the Georgia Chamber to publicly oppose ALL anti-voting bills that pose a direct threat to access to the ballot and not hide behind weak statements.”

On Monday came a new front: The SEIU Workers United and Progress Georgia launched a digital advertising campaign pushing Georgia’s biggest corporations to publicly condemn the elections restrictions and halt political donations to legislators who support them.

Several ads highlight the economic impact of Black Georgians and visitors, who contribute more than $106 billion to state businesses every year. See the ads here.


Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan wasn’t the only Georgia politician to make a splash on “Meet the Press” Sunday. Along with hammering Donald Trump and some of his fellow Republicans, Duncan said he won’t run for Senate in 2022, as some had speculated.

In the segment before Duncan’s, Stacey Abrams also made an appearance, where she sidestepped multiple questions about a 2022 bid for governor.

CHUCK TODD: This has become a big national fight for you. But I am curious, are you still thinking about running for governor in Georgia in 2022?

STACEY ABRAMS: My focus is on making sure we have elections in 2022. And that means that we have to defend our democracy against all enemies foreign and certainly the domestic enemies we see permeating and unfortunately populating our state legislatures, fighting hard to restrict access to the right to vote, trying to make certain that people of color and young people cannot participate fully in our democracy, which is the least patriotic thing I can imagine in this moment.

CHUCK TODD: And if we do have elections in 2022?

STACEY ABRAMS: Then I’ll be doing my best to make sure they’re fair and available.

CHUCK TODD: Will you be on the ballot?

STACEY ABRAMS: I’m focusing on our democracy and I’ll make other decisions after we’ve gotten that work done.

The clip prompted Meagan Hanson, a former Republican state legislator, to tweet her skepticism that Abrams will launch a 2022 bid.

“$10 says she doesn’t run. Too much on the line,” she wrote.

We told her we would take the other side of that bet.


As COVID-19 vaccines become available for more Georgians, researchers at Augusta University are documenting the massive racial, regional, and economic disparities among the 830,000-plus in the state who contracted the virus over the last year.

Writing for the Augusta Chronicle, Tom Corwin reports:

“The toll remains greatest, however, in those rural counties with higher Black populations, less medical infrastructure and higher rates of poverty and lack of health insurance.

“The COVID-19 death rates for Black adults are higher across all age groups compared to whites, an earlier Chronicle analysis found. When calculated as a rate per 100,000 population, the death rate for Black adults ages 30-39 is 4.29 times higher than whites, is four times higher among Blacks ages 40-49 and 3.1 times higher among those ages 60-69, the analysis found.

“In many of those same counties, Dr. Justin X. Moore and colleagues (at Augusta University) have previously documented higher death rates among Black women for breast cancer.

“‘At a certain point it does feel redundant, the horrible trends that we continue to see,' Moore said."

- The Augusta Chronicle


The solution to Georgia’s massive health disparities is Medicaid expansion, Democrats in the state argue.

Andy Miller from Georgia Health News lays out the shifting policy and political dynamics for Gov. Brian Kemp, now that the Biden Administration has dangled massive new incentives to states like Georgia that have resisted a full Medicaid expansion so far:

“States that expand the program at this point would receive an additional 5 percentage point increase in their regular federal Medicaid matching rate for two years. So over that time, even factoring in the costs of implementing expansion, Georgia would net $700 million under the new incentives, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“The Kemp waiver plan, as outlined now, is much less ambitious. It would cost $75 million for the first year, and cover just 31,000 low-income adults, according to the consumer advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future. A standard expansion would give Medicaid eligibility to 480,000 to 600,000 people in the state, said Laura Colbert, the group's executive director."

- Georgia Health News

Right now hundreds of thousands of Georgians earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for a discounted plan through the Affordable Care Act.


The Brunswick News editorial board is defending the elections bills in the General Assembly that have been widely criticized, including by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, as too restrictive and “a solution in search of a problem.”

The News writes:

“Everyone will have an open and fair opportunity to cast a ballot in local, state and federal elections. Anyone desiring to participate in an election, regardless of the individual or party he or she supports, will be free to do so as long as the individual is legally registered and makes it to the ballot box on time. Any man or woman who cares anything about their city, county, state or nation will make the effort.”

But the News’ defense of the GOP proposals wasn’t the main point of the editorial, which accused U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock of “political posturing and an attempt to hold onto power at the expense of democracy” for his suggestion that he could be willing to do away with the filibuster rules in the Senate.

Last week, Warnock told NPR he’d be willing to consider a change to the Senate rules to pass new federal voting rights legislation.

From the interview:

NPR: Is this bill important enough, in your view, to kill the filibuster?

Warnock: Voting rights are preservative of all other rights. This is not just one issue alongside many other issues. It is the very soil and foundation of our democracy, and the attack on voting rights right now is so urgent that all options must be on the table.

NPR: So is that a yes, you would be open to killing the filibuster?

Warnock: All options are on the table, including the filibuster.


Finally, if you see state Rep. Bert Reeves at the Capitol on Monday, make sure you check out his outfit.

The Marietta Republican is wearing his Georgia Tech letterman’s jacket from 1998 and plans to sing the school’s “Ramblin’ Wreck” fight song from the well of the House to celebrate its first ACC basketball championship since 1993.

Reeves had plenty of time to perfect his rendition in college when served as the school’s official yellow jacket mascot, “Buzz,” from 1997 to 2000.

We suggest UGA fans come armed with earplugs.