The Jolt: The case of the missing Republican senators on a GOP voting bill

Even the most grizzled Capitol veterans hadn’t seen anything like it: Before the Georgia Senate narrowly adopted sweeping voting restrictions on Monday, four GOP senators were excused from the debate and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan ducked into his second-floor suite rather than preside over the passage of a measure he opposes.

Duncan has made his stance clear, saying publicly that he opposes the provision to end no-excuse absentee voting that was embedded in the measure, but we hadn’t heard from the other GOP senators who skipped the vote.

We reached out to all four, but didn’t hear back from John Albers of Roswell or Chuck Hufstetler of Rome. Hufstetler is the only of the four in a safe district, though he is known to buck party lines, such as with his support for Medicaid expansion and criticism of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

In an email, state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick of Marietta said she supports much of the bill but opposes the provision to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting “especially since we have strengthened voter ID” for the ballot application.

“For that reason, I was not comfortable voting for it, but I wanted the bill to move forward in the process and get to a compromise bill” with the House.

State Sen. Brian Strickland of McDonough tried to remove the absentee voting rollback from the bill before it got to the Senate floor, saying it was not necessary with new ID requirements.

“I support the remaining portions of the bill and am happy the measure is moving forward so we can come together and pass a bill that increases security and transparency in our election process while continuing to protect the right to vote.”

Left unsaid are GOP fears that the restrictions could end up gutting Republican absentee support, too. Republican campaigns invested heavily to encourage Georgians to vote absentee (for GOP candidates, of course) in the 2020 elections.



Wednesday’s schedule (Legislative Day 30):

  • 8:00 am - 4:45 pm: House & Senate committees meet;
  • 10:00 am: The House gavels in;
  • 10:00 am: The Senate convenes.


No surprise here, but former President Jimmy Carter is not a fan of the bills moving in the General Assembly that would restrict access to early and mail-in voting.

“While states must safeguard the integrity of the election process to prevent fraud, this should not be at the expense of voters’ access to the polls. They should proactively expand voter access through safe, secure administrative practices,” the Democrat said in a statement released Tuesday.

Our colleague Mark Niesse has more on Carter’s response, including a reminder that the issue of election fraud is not abstract to him.

“Carter, 96, said he knows the dangers of voting fraud after ballot-stuffing aided his opponent in an election for state Senate in 1962. At least one dead person and man confined to federal prison had cast ballots. A judge ordered a new election, which Carter won.

“But Carter said modern Georgia elections are protected by a ballot paper trail and post-election audits, which were used to conduct a manual recount that confirmed Democrat Joe Biden had defeated Republican Donald Trump in Georgia by about 12,000 votes.

“As our state legislators seek to turn back the clock through legislation that will restrict access to voting for many Georgians, I am disheartened, saddened, and angry," Carter said. “Many of the proposed changes are reactions to allegations of fraud for which no evidence was produced."

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff is weighing in on Senate Bill 241, which eliminates no-excuse absentee voting.

During a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the confirmation of a Justice Department nominee, Ossoff called the bill “brazen and flagrant and obvious in its partisan and racial targeting” and “an exercise in the abuse of power.”


The Fair Fight voting rights group, launched by Stacey Abrams in 2018, circulated a memo this week penned by Democratic strategist Dylan Sumner and Republican strategist Mark Zubaly that argues vote-by-mail “is clearly proven to help voters and candidates of both parties—the data is clear, the facts are overwhelming, the case is closed.”

The document aggregates state laws related to no-excuse absentee voting and compares it to each party’s success in those states’ elections.

From the memo:

“Despite a flood of misinformation and partisan rhetoric, the numbers prove that no-excuse vote by mail (VBM) benefits both parties, and both should push laws that make vote-by-mail more accessible.

“As the data in this report demonstrates, no-excuse vote by mail helps well-run campaigns, regardless of party, turn out voters in greater numbers. States that have expanded vote by mail laws have increased turnout across the political spectrum. The bottom line: vote by mail is proven to not only benefit both parties, but also strengthen democracy and empower more voters."

- Courtesy: Fair Fight


A measure with some of the broadest support this year has been a modest state income tax cut, approved last week by the state House by a vote of 170-1.

But the Wall Street Journal editorial board writes today that a provision in the U.S. Senate-passed version of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill could prevent states that take relief funds (Georgia is up for billions of dollars) from also cutting taxes through 2024.

The exact impact of the state language will be up to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen as she writes the regulations related to the bill. We’ll be watching to see how the U.S. capitol affects the Georgia capitol on this one.


Georgia Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, wears a protective mask during a special session at the Georgia Capitol to deal with the coronavirus. In response to the pandemic, the state Legislature suspended its regular 2020 session indefinitely. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

icon to expand image

It’s been exactly one year since the world went into lockdown because of the then-novel Coronavirus, including the Georgia State Capitol, which eventually suspended the 2020 legislative session until June.

GPB’s Lawmakers featured two members last night to talk about their harrowing near-death experiences as they battled COVID-19 since then.

Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, described the moment he blacked out in the hospital after his oxygen levels plummeted, while Rep. Dexter Sharper, D-Valdosta, recounted his ongoing recovery, which has included bringing supplemental oxygen to the Capitol to work every day.

The full interviews with GPB’s Donna Lowry are well worth your time.



U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath arrived in Congress with a mission to enact stricter gun laws, but she says she’d been frustrated by inaction over the past two years, due largely to Republican opposition.

She and other House Democrats hope the U.S. Senate will be more amenable to gun control measures now that it has flipped from red to blue, but the 60-vote filibuster threshold remains a barrier.

An expanded background-check bill, backed by McBath, is up for a House vote as soon as today, and other proposals are in the pipeline. McBath also outlined for one of your Insiders how she plans to work with Senate Republicans to move her measures once and for all.

Not surprisingly, McBath’s Republican House colleagues are not in favor of those efforts. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, who represents the neighboring 11th District, tweeted against the measure.


All eight members of Georgia’s Democratic congressional delegation — both U.S. senators and six House members — are scheduled to have their first joint press conference in Washington later today.

The newser is pegged to today’s final House vote on Democrats’ Coronavirus relief bill, which all eight Georgians have championed.

Democrats in D.C. have pledged to go all-out to sell the benefits of the $1.9 trillion package, which 70% of Americans favor, according to a Pew poll released Monday.

Speaking to a Democratic caucus meeting last week, Biden compared the relief bill to President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, which was smaller in size but so unpopular among conservative voters it provided fuel for the Tea Party movement.

“And many of you remember that in 2009, we expended a lot of political capital — Nancy and I and others — in the Recovery Act. It was — it was an act that had less than two-tenths of 1 percent waste or fraud in it, according to the experts, and the economists told us we literally saved America from a depression.

“But we didn't adequately explain what we had done. Barack was so modest, he didn't want to take, as he said, a “victory lap." I kept saying, “Tell people what we did." He said, “We don't have time. I'm not going to take a victory lap." And we paid a price for it, ironically, for that humility."

- Courtesy: The White House


Speaking of the Coronavirus relief package, honorary Insider Jamie Dupree’s Regular Order newsletter compares its impact on American families to President Donald Trump’s 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

“A study from the Tax Policy Center found most of the aid from the COVID relief bill goes to those who need it the most. The lowest 20 percent of earners would see a 20 percent increase in after-tax income. The top one percent would get 0.0 percent extra. The top five percent get 0.1 percent extra.

“NOT 2018. The Tax Policy Center said the COVID bill is in ‘stark contrast' to the Trump tax cuts of three years ago. “By contrast, nearly half of the TCJA's 2018 tax cuts went to households in the top 5 percent of the income distribution (who made about $308,000 that year)."

- Regular Order



U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock may be a brand new senator, but he’s already a draw for his Democratic colleagues on the fundraising circuit, according to Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Illinois’ U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a wounded Iraq War veteran and former secretary of Veterans Affairs, will kick off her 2022 reelection campaign tonight with a virtual fundraiser.

Warnock is among the handful of Democrats featured in the event, which is pitched at small-dollar donors.


Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) arrives on stage to address the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida, on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

icon to expand image

Credit: TNS

Potential GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Tom Cotton is airing digital ads in Georgia and New Hampshire targeting Xavier Becerra, the California attorney general tapped by President Joe Biden as the nation’s first Latino secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Why Georgia and New Hampshire? Fox News reports that while the ads are about Becerra, they’re meant to target Georgia’s U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and New Hampshire’s Sen. Maggie Hassan, both up for reelection in 2022 in their battleground states.

The Georgia ad even calls Bacerra a “radical liberal,” the same catch phrase former Sen. Kelly Loeffler used against Warnock more than a dozen times in a single debate, before eventually losing to Warnock in January.


Special election results: A publicist and cooking instructor has defeated a scandal-plagued former state representative and DeKalb County commissioner for a seat in the Georgia House, the AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu reports.

“Angela Moore, a public relations specialist who finished in third place in a 2010 primary for secretary of state, defeated former state Rep. Stan Watson, who also served as a DeKalb County commissioner, in Tuesday's special election runoff.

“Moore received about 59% of the nearly 3,000 votes that were cast Tuesday, according to unofficial results from the Georgia secretary of state's website.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Once Moore is sworn in, there will be no vacancies in the General Assembly.