The Jolt: Jon Ossoff open to change filibuster rules for voting rights

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) speaks at a press conference on Medicaid expansion with other democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 23rd, 2021.

Credit: Nathan Posner

Credit: Nathan Posner

Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) speaks at a press conference on Medicaid expansion with other democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 23rd, 2021.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff made some news during an hour-long appearance at the Atlanta Press Club luncheon on Friday when he was pressed by one of your Insiders on his stance on a filibuster overhaul.

In the past, the freshman Democrat has said he’s “open” to changing the Senate rule requiring 60 votes to debate legislation. On Friday, Ossoff gave more detail-- telling the Press Club audience of civic leaders and business executives he considers voting rights legislation to be more important than Senate procedure, including filibuster rules.

“We should do what it takes to pass federal voting legislation,” Ossoff said.

“We have to be thoughtful about it, and I’m going to consider any proposed rules changes thoughtfully (and) think about the long term implications,” Ossoff said. “The bottom line is that we must advance a meaningful federal voting rights measure.”

He added that still hopes a bipartisan compromise can be reached to advance voting rights legislation now stalled in the Senate.

Ossoff made his comments the day after President Joe Biden said at a town hall that he is open to discussion of filibuster reform to pass new voting rights.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki followed up by adding that Democrats “are going to have to determine an alternative path forward” if Republicans “cannot come forward and stop standing in the way.”

Also on Friday, Ossoff talked about his budding relationship with Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who helped forge to pass Ossoff’s first piece of standalone legislation, a measure that would expand security camera coverage in the prison system.

It’s part of a pile of legislation and initiatives he’s put forward to try to position himself as a “workhorse” in the Senate.

The Democrat highlighted efforts to expand public transit and secure a high-speed rail line from Atlanta to Savannah in the latest version of a far-reaching spending plan. And he talked of the need to shift the nation’s resources toward new efforts to combat climate change and retool the economy toward greener jobs.

“I’ve been leading the charge in the Senate on solar energy as well but my focus has been on building bipartisan relationships to pass bills that help our state,” Ossoff said. “Although there’s so much sound and fury in the partisan political space and the national political debate, there is still a real potential to get things done.”

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POSTED: Activists are warning that Democrats run the risk of turning off Black voters if federal voting legislation continues to be stalled by Republican filibusters.

“Personally, I am going to work as hard in the midterms as they work to secure voting rights protections,” LaTosha Brown, the Georgia-based cofounder of Black Voters Matter, wrote on Twitter last week. “We will see.”

That was the same day Senate Democrats brought a sweeping election overhaul bill to the floor, only to see Republicans use the filibuster to keep it from moving forward.

Insider Tia Mitchell spoke with Brown and writes in today’s AJC that Democrats can’t stand to lose organizers like her ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

There’s no evidence that widespread apathy has set in for Black activists yet, but voting rights are a key issue for the group.

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210930-Atlanta-Gov. Brian Kemp gives an update about Covid in Georgia at the State Capitol on Thursday morning, Sept. 30, 2021.  Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

icon to expand image

Credit: Ben Gray

It’s hard to read much into straw polls. But the one conducted at the 2nd District GOP rally in Pelham over the weekend was more difficult than most to divine much about the state of Republican affairs in Georgia.

Not surprisingly, Herschel Walker led the field in the U.S. Senate race, while Burt Jones outpolled his rivals in the contest for lieutenant governor. Both enjoy former President Donald Trump’s support.

But a third Trump-backed candidate, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, trailed David Belle Isle in the race for secretary of state.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler was walloped by state Sen. Bruce Thompson. But Gov. Brian Kemp far outpaced his challengers, despite Trump’s vocal opposition. Kemp’s closest opponent was Kandiss Taylor.

And, no, Stacey Abrams wasn’t listed as a gubernatorial option despite Trump’s quasi-endorsement of her at a rally in Perry earlier this fall.

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Herschel Walker got a vote of confidence from South Dakota’s U.S. Sen. John Thune, who announced his endorsement Monday morning.

The Thune’s endorsement is a boost for the former footballer, who has locked up former President Donald Trump’s support, but has been slower to get D.C. types on board.

Thune is a high-ranking Senate leader whose support gives any campaign a GOP establishment stamp of approval.

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“We can’t let Sandy Springs turn into Atlanta.”

Consider this ominous flyer sent to conservative-leaning voters in Sandy Springs by the Fulton Republican Party a preview of what’s to come.

It takes aim at “a slate of candidates supported by the Democratic Party,” including Dontaye Carter, the progressive candidate challenging Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, a two-term incumbent and longtime Republican mover-and-shaker in Georgia.

“When you elect Democrats to nonpartisan city offices, you endanger public safety and threaten the financial viability of our community,” the text warns, below pictures of protesters and police officers.

Never mind that the pictures in the text are stock photos of scenes from Baltimore and Fair Lawn, Jersey, not Atlanta.

Republicans have embraced a law-and-order message in local and statewide campaigns this year, even in nonpartisan elections like the mayor’s race in Sandy Springs. That’s on top of GOP lawmakers’ calls for new crackdowns on crime in Atlanta and GOP officials who have endorsed Buckhead cityhood.

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The calendar says 2021, but it’s starting to feel like 2022, with Gov. Brian Kemp turning the Atlanta Braves’ incredible weekend triumph over the Los Angeles Dodgers into a fresh attack on Stacey Abrams.

Meanwhile, Abrams spent part of her weekend in Virginia, where she staged a second round of rallies for former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s comeback attempt.

At a stop in Charlottesville, Abrams warned that a victory by Republican Glenn Youngkin would set the state on course toward becoming more like Georgia- but not in a good way.

“If you want to figure out what could happen to you in nine days if you don’t get out and vote, pick up a newspaper that talks about Georgia. If you want to know what happens in nine days, if we don’t get out and vote, looking (sic.) at what’s happening in Texas,” Abrams said, according to CNN.

CNN reported the comparison with the Peach State apparently worked, as many in the audience groaned at the idea.

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With few reliable polls out there, the AJC’s latest poll of Atlanta’s mayoral race is one of the most credible snapshots of where the race is headed.

Over the weekend, we also got hold of a poll conducted by 20-20 Insight that showed City Council President Felicia Moore in the lead with 30% and both Kasim Reed and Andre Dickens locked in a tight race for second place.

The poll had Reed at 18% and Dickens at 21% -- within the margin of error of 5.2 percentage points.

Dickens, a city councilman, has been making a late charge at Reed for the second spot in the runoff.

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POSTED: While the slate of Georgia candidates endorsed by Donald Trump has been busy embracing his hard-line policies, we’ve noticed Herschel Walker mostly steering clear of contentious issues, including his latest ad that does not mention either Trump or the Republican Party.

Insider Greg Bluestein has a look at the strategy behind Walker’s current “high-road” playbook- and what Georgia Republicans have to say about it.

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The Republican National Committee is revving up its Georgia ground game ahead of next week’s municipal elections.

Volunteers made calls and knocked on doors to encourage GOP turnout in Dacula, Johns Creek and Roswell, along with other cities across the state.

On Tuesday, the RNC will host an event in Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux’s hometown of Suwanee, featuring small business owners critical of President Joe Biden’s administration.

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U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff has written a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking him to spend $9.3 million in federal funding to upgrade the facilities at the Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center in hopes that it can be reopened.

The Randolph County hospital closed last year after years of financial struggle and under the weight of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

County leaders are in the process of partnering with a nonprofit healthcare company to reopen the hospital, but the building needs work.

“Reopening this hospital will have ripple effects far beyond the immediate counties of service,” Ossoff wrote. “I am pleased to lend my full support to this vital project addressing urgent issues facing rural communities in Georgia.”

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A #gapol note for your sports calendar: Game Six of the World Series, if necessary, would be held the evening of Tuesday, Nov, 2, which is also Election Day for hundreds of municipal races – including the heated race for Atlanta City Hall.

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As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.

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