The Jolt: Texas claims sovereignty over us, and many Georgia Republicans like the idea

December 5, 2020 Valdosta - U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler speaks as President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. David Perdue look on during the Republican National Committee's Victory Rally at the Valdosta Flying Services in Valdosta on Saturday, December 5, 2020. Trump urged residents to vote for Loeffler and Perdue in next month's runoffs in Georgia. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
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December 5, 2020 Valdosta - U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler speaks as President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. David Perdue look on during the Republican National Committee's Victory Rally at the Valdosta Flying Services in Valdosta on Saturday, December 5, 2020. Trump urged residents to vote for Loeffler and Perdue in next month's runoffs in Georgia. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Every now and again, the 19th century raises its head in Georgia politics.

The last time may have been in 2009, when the state Senate re-asserted its faith in the doctrine of states’ rights – including the right to secede from the Union, and the right to nullify federal laws that Georgia does not like.

Republicans jumped off that nostalgia train when David Poythress, the former commander of the Georgia National Guard and then a Democratic candidate for governor, showed up in uniform on a YouTube video – to rebuke those talking of the dissolution of a nation when U.S. troops were dying overseas.

We are there again, but with a twist. Last night, certain Georgia Republicans have bought into a new theory of nullification – that one state can reach into another and declare the latter’s policies null and void. From our AJC colleague Mark Niesse:

The state of Texas sued Georgia and three other states Tuesday in an effort to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out election results that showed Democrat Joe Biden won the most votes.

The case is a longshot attempt to overturn Georgia's elections after counts and recounts showed that Biden defeated Trump by about 12,000 votes. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, certified Georgia's election results Monday.

The lawsuit by Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accuses Georgia election officials of illegally changing rules for voter signature verification and early opening of absentee ballot envelopes.

But wait, there’s so much more. Only a few hours later, much of the Georgia GOP agreed to Texas sovereignty over the state of Georgia:

After the state of Texas filed a brazen lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme court to toss out Georgia's election results, Republican Attorney General Chris Carr's office called it “constitutionally, legally and factually wrong." He didn't get much backup from other senior Republicans.

Nearly half of the Georgia Senate's GOP members issued a statement siding with the Texas lawsuit that seeks to help President Donald Trump undo his defeat here. So did U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who said they both “fully support" the complaint filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

This follows a seven-point statement from the Senate GOP caucus outlining plans to curtail absentee voting and ban ballot drop boxes, citing false claims of Democratic “ballot harvesting.”

“As soon as we may constitutionally convene, we will reform our election laws to secure our electoral process by eliminating at-will absentee voting,” the statement read. “We will require photo identification for absentee voting for cause, and we will crack down on ballot harvesting by outlawing drop boxes.”

Only last year, it seemed that Gov. Brian Kemp might have his hands full trying to deal with a Georgia House led by his frenemy Speaker David Ralston. Now, though, it seems the faction in the GOP Senate might be a bigger challenge.

And it’s not just Kemp who might be wrestling with post-Trump angst.

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Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is sticking his Republican neck out, too, with repeated calls for his party to move past the presidential election. Here’s a taste of the op-ed he has in today’s AJC, drawing on his pro baseball years:

Baseball pitchers dread being pulled from a game too early. During my minor league career, I distinctly remember being pulled from the Arizona Fall League championship game despite being only one out away from clinching a victory for our team. I pleaded my case to the manager when he came to the mound, but he and the coaching staff had decided that another pitcher was better equipped to finish the game. I was furious. However — for the good of the team — I handed over the ball and left the mound.

Pitching is nowhere near as important as a presidential election, but I think the analogy is useful. President Trump, in my opinion, is being pulled from the game too early. However, we must respect the sanctity of the American electoral process. The people have decided to pull him from the game. It is time — for the good of the country — to hand over the ball rather than blame teammates, umpires, or the game itself.

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Via Twitter, congresswoman-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene declared herself outraged by an absentee ballot application mailed to the Habersham County jail, demanding that Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan stop such things.

Greene has embarked on a steep learning curve. Ultimately, she will learn that the ballot application (a photo of which she helpfully included) is from a private firm over which Georgia officialdom has no control. And that a jail is often populated by people charged with crimes, but not convicted. Which means they retain their right to cast a ballot.

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Georgia is likely to remain a swing state for at least the next decade, according to a veteran watcher of state politics. From the Athens Banner-Herald:

“We will be a competitive state certainly for the rest of this decade," University of Georgia Professor Charles Bullock said. “The trends indicate that the substantial Republican margins of a couple of years ago have evaporated. Upon close examination, it's clear that what Republicans need to do is pick up voters in urban areas — they can't just write them off."

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Moving on to the COVID-19 front: Four Hall County schools have temporarily canceled in-person classes amid concerns over COVID-19 absences, according to the Gainesville Times.

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For the first time in weeks, metro Atlanta joined the regions of the state that the White House puts in the red zone for new infections, according to our AJC colleague J. Scott Trubey:

The highest rates of spread generally are in far north Georgia. The task force report said 79% of Georgia counties now have moderate or high rates of virus transmission, up from 70% a week ago.

And from the Tuesday press conference on the topic featuring Gov. Brian Kemp:

Kemp said the state will begin to receive the first shipments of a limited number coronavirus vaccine doses in the next week to 10 days. But he warned the supply of inoculations will be reserved at first for the most vulnerable, including nursing home residents and health workers.

“Our first shipments will not be anywhere close enough for anyone in our state to stop following the same public health guidance that we've had in place for many months," the governor said.

For that reason, Kemp said, Georgians must step up.

“The general public will not be able to be vaccinated for months," he said.

Behind Kemp’s admonition is this, as reported by Politico.com:

The United States could be heading for a vaccine cliff this spring, with shortages forcing hundreds of millions of Americans to wait for shots amid intense global competition for limited doses.

The Trump administration has bought 100 million doses each of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, but the U.S. is unlikely to get additional doses anytime soon because of strong international demand. And both vaccines require two doses per person, effectively halving the already scarce supply.

Trump administration officials insisted Tuesday that most American adults can be vaccinated by May. But despite President Donald Trump's attempt to compel vaccine sales to the U.S. by executive order, most Americans' best hope of getting a shot by spring or early summer may rest on vaccines that have not yet been proven to work — such as the doses being developed by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

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On the good news front, from our AJC colleague James Salzer:

With the next General Assembly session a month away, legislative budget writers got good news Tuesday when the state announced tax collections were up again in November, despite an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms appears more likely to stay in City Hall next year. But she still has a few other options to serve in the incoming administration.

President-elect Joe Biden tapped U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge to lead the housing agency, bypassing Bottoms and other potential contenders for the Cabinet spot. But local Democrats are still buzzing about the possibility she could lead the Small Business Administration or be appointed transportation secretary.

Bottoms was one of Biden’s earliest high-profile supporters and was oft-mentioned in a potential Cabinet seat in the runup to the election.

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All but one member of the U.S. House delegation from Georgia voted in favor of a defense policy bill that will begin the process of renaming bases now named after Confederate leaders.

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, and other members of the House Freedom Caucus gathered before Tuesday’s vote to criticize the final negotiated version of the National Defense Authorization Act. They said there were too many provisions that curtailed the power of President Donald Trump -- failing to add that he would soon be out of office.

Click here for more here on what the bill includes for Georgia’s military installations and the start of the three-year base renaming process.

A vote on the Senate floor is expected this week, which will put Trump on the clock to decide if he will follow through on his threats to veto. Both chambers are expected to have enough votes for an override.

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A bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, that would improve public access to federal court records was approved on the House floor Tuesday. It was the first time the chamber approved the measure, which Johnson has championed for several years.

The Open Courts Act would modernize federal court records and require a free service to access dockets and filings. The current PACER system requires payment, although waivers are available.

Despite Johnson’s victory in the House, there is no sign the U.S. Senate will take up the bill before the session expires at the end of the year. That means he will have to start from scratch in 2021. Federal judges have expressed reservations about the proposal.

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Another day, another investigation into GOP Senate candidates’ stock trades. This time, the Huffington Post dug into the portfolio of Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s husband, Jeff Sprecher.

The piece looks into purchases made in March by Sprecher, who owns the New York Stock Exchange’s parent company. This was around the same time that Congress was negotiating a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. To wit:

The terms of the CARES Act were still mostly a secret, known primarily to Republican senators while members of their party crafted the legislation. But in the days before the bill's introduction, Sprecher managed to invest in several industries — insurance and energy — that were poised to take advantage of the bill's very specific provisions.

Those purchases are just the latest to raise questions about whether Loeffler, the Senate's richest member, has ever used the insider knowledge she gleans on Capitol Hill to inform her own portfolio.

Loeffler and Sprecher have since sold off most of their stock in individual companies; prior to that she said any trades on her or her husband’s behalf were handled by financial advisers and without their input. Loeffler has also said that her stock portfolio was investigated by federal agencies and no wrongdoing found.