The Jolt: Voting groups turn pressure from Biden to Senate

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris leave the stage after speaking about voting rights at Clark Atlanta University on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. (Ben Gray/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Combined ShapeCaption
U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris leave the stage after speaking about voting rights at Clark Atlanta University on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. (Ben Gray/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Now that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have come and gone, the coalition of voting rights groups that boycotted the speeches have pivoted.

Now joined by Stacey Abrams and her group Fair Fight Action, the coalition is turning its attention to the senators who oppose changing the Senate rules to bypass the ongoing Republican filibuster on two federal election bills.

“Now it is time for Senators—specifically Sens. Manchin and Sinema—to heed the Administration’s call to action,” the coalition wrote in a statement late Tuesday. “It is past time to restore the Senate and pass the Freedom To Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

Abrams, whose group was not part of the initial criticisms but who also did not attend the speeches Tuesday, followed up with her own statement thanking Biden and Harris for visiting Georgia, but also praising the activists who took a stand to push for more action and less talk.

“I am honored to have worked with allied organizers and voters to deliver our state’s 16 Electoral Votes, flip two seats to take back the U.S. Senate, flip two U.S. House seats in as many cycles and win dozens of key races at the local level, all within the past four years,” she wrote in a Twitter thread.

“We must pave the way for swift Senate passage, because as President Biden declared today, if Republicans continue to prevent passage of legislation to protect the freedom to vote, “we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster.”

But not all activists are ending their pressure campaign on the White House, with one writing at the end of the day, “It’s about (expiative) time we see some real movement. GA organizers are waiting.”


Stacey Abrams didn’t say what “scheduling conflict” led to her decision to bypass Joe Biden’s event, but it spawned widespread speculation from national media that she was avoiding the president’s souring approval ratings.

It’s an understandable narrative, since there are already signs of local Democrats in other states distancing themselves from Biden. And in Georgia, there’s a long history of that strategy at work.

In this cycle, though, we don’t see evidence that’s the case.

U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both traveled with Biden aboard Air Force One and last year welcomed help from national Democrats that, in Ossoff’s case, he had spurned a few years earlier.

Abrams has also tied herself closely with national figures and vowed to back Biden’s agenda.

“I’m running to be the governor of Georgia and anyone willing to invest in Georgia and improve our infrastructure and keep our voters safe is welcome to come work with us,” she told us in an interview when asked about whether she’ll embrace Biden in the election.

That aside, it was notable that one of the nation’s most foremost voting rights advocates skipped a consequential speech by the president and the vice president in her backyard.

Along with her absence, voting rights groups with close ties to Abrams were among the loudest critics of Biden’s appearance even as they praised his speech, and her allies privately complained of the lack of coordination with local activists and state officials.

More than a few also noted the timing of an event scheduled the day after the college football championship, guaranteeing it got less local attention. And some complained that Biden didn’t fundraise for Georgia candidates while he was here.

Our prediction: Abrams will welcome plenty of help from Biden and other national figures during the 2022 campaign. And Republicans will relentlessly tie her to his agenda no matter what she does.


Several GOP members of Georgia’s congressional delegation held a Zoom call Tuesday night to react to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ calls for changing the Senate rules to pass federal voting bills.

The Republicans stuck to the party line by opposing the proposals and accusing Democrats of pushing to implement national standards as part of a power grab.

But several said they would support a bipartisan bill that deals more narrowly with how Congress certifies elections, an issue that arose during the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021 to confirm Joe Biden’s win.

Then-Vice President Mike Pence was pressured by fellow Republicans to reject electoral college votes in ways that raised constitutional questions.

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Cassville Republican who also serves on the House committee that deals with election reforms, said he would be open to clarifying the law.

“That is something that needs to be worked on,” he said. “And we do need bipartisan input to actually clean up the law so it is clear what Congress’s role is when it comes to accepting the electoral college ballots.”


The General Assembly will be back in action Wednesday after its national championship pause.

First up will be the annual Eggs & Issues breakfast sponsored by the Georgia Chamber, with a powerhouse program kicking off with a bright and early call time at the Fox Theater this morning.

The Chamber’s announced speakers are U.S. Raphael Warnock, Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, House Speaker David Ralston, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, and other VIPs.



  • 10:00 a.m.: The Senate gavels in;
  • 11:00 am: The House convenes.
  • 1:00 pm: Committees meetings begin.


Look for early committee work this week from the House Governmental Affairs Special Committee on Cityhood and its newly installed chairman, state Rep. Victor Anderson.

There are at least five cityhood proposals in front of the General Assembly this session and Anderson has noted that it’s been years since the House and Senate have updated laws related to the process creating new municipalities.

On Wednesday, the committee holds a hearing on the proposed City of East Cobb.


In case you missed it last week, House Speaker David Ralston appointed former state Rep. Edward Lindsey to the State Election Board.

The announcement sends Lindsey, who is the head of Georgia government affairs for Denton’s, from the frying pan into the fire, so to speak.

The former House Majority Whip for Republicans has been playing a key role in opposing the Buckhead Cityhood movement. He’ll now step onto the board that was the subject of intense Democratic debate during consideration of Senate Bill 202.


The Wall Street Journal editorial board has weighed in on an issue that’s already bubbling up in the state Capitol-- non-citizens voting in U.S. elections.

The editorial board, which has opposed Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud, cheered Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger and called the issue “a political winner for Republicans.”

On Sunday, Raff called for a constitutional amendment to stipulate that only U.S. citizens can vote in U.S. elections.

On Monday, state Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller dropped a bill to amend the state constitution from saying that “every person who is a citizen” shall be entitled to vote to stipulating that “only individuals who are citizens” may vote.

A separate Georgia state law limits voting to U.S. citizens.


With portions of west Cobb County now in U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s district, Greene and her Democratic opponents have been making the rounds there to build momentum for their 2022 elections.

Greene made a surprise appearance at the Cobb GOP Saturday, where the Marietta Daily Journal reports she was welcomed with “raucous applause.”

She then launched into a speech with a series of bizarre statements about the 2020 election, COVID-19 and the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, including a complaint that the attack “disrupted and ruined” the attempt by Republicans to stop the certification of Joe Biden as president.

Two of Greene’s Democratic opponents spoke at the Cobb Democratic Committee the same day.

Holly McCormack told the group, “There are a lot of people up where I’m from that are sick to death of how we’re represented. There is not one person I’ve ever met in Georgia who treats people the way she does.”


The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer has a lengthy profile of state Rep. Calvin Smyre, the long serving Democrat who has been appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

The full piece is worth your time, but this quote from Republican state Rep. Richard Smith, a fellow Columbus lawmaker stood out:

“If you want the definition of a statesman, you’ll see Rep. Smyre’s name right beside it. He’s been a fantastic person to work with. …If anybody deserves to go be an ambassador somewhere, I think that would be a tremendous way for him to finish out his career. But he is going to be extremely, extremely difficult to replace.”


In Georgia House news, Democrat JT Wu, a Gwinnett-grown businessman, announced Wednesday he is running for the newly-drawn 97th district encompassing parts of Berkeley Lake, Duluth, Norcross and Peachtree Corners.

He’s got support from Gwinnett Commissioner Ben Ku and the left-leaning Georgia Advancing Progress PAC for his campaign to join the growing numbers of Asian-American legislators in the statehouse.


U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter paid tribute to the Georgia Bulldogs’ national championship by donning a bright red blazer, UGA lapel pin, and red and black striped tie while he gave a floor speech on Tuesday.

Carter earned his Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from UGA and unofficial designation as a House of Representatives’ superfan Tuesday.

“Mr. Speaker, oooooohhhhhhh Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate as a proud alumnus of the recently crowned college football national champions, the Georgia Bulldogs,” he said, holding a signed football.

Carter noted that quarterback Stetson Bennett and several other players are from Carter’s 1st Congressional District and then ended, “Athens is Title Town again. Go Dawgs!”

It also appears that Carter entered into a friendly wager against Alabama U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl and won. Carl donned a sweater bearing a massive Georgia logo and posed for a picture with Carter off the House floor.

The Pooler Republican’s eye-catching getup caught the attention of plenty of journalists watching the proceedings.

“What. A. Suit,” a Politico reporter tweeted.


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