Posted: 9:19 am Friday, March 7th, 2014
By Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy
The end of April is the newest forecast for the water resources bill that will finally allow Port of Savannah deepening, with a White House certificate of approval.
Savannah GOP Rep. Jack Kingston said he met with House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., who has been trying to hammer out a compromise Water Resources and Development bill with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and was assured a House-Senate conference report will get through by the end of next month.
The congressional delegation thought they had solved the authorization problem with language in a January spending bill, but the administration disagreed and now all eyes are on WRDA.
Predictions of Congressional action, of course, should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism, just like deadlines for the oft-delayed groundbreaking for the port.
Kingston, in an interview off the House floor, sounded a note of exasperation when talking about all of the White House difficulties with this project over the past decade and a half:
“One of their issues was 902 [the budget caps for the project]. We dealt with that. Another one was the South Carolina lawsuit. We dealt with that. …. I guess what surprised me is, if you and I are working on something together and we have an agreement and some intervening event happens on your end, what would you do? We didn’t get a phone call. We didn’t get anything.”
On some things, though, Congress can move with exceptional swiftness. Such as Thursday’s House vote to offer $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, to help its stumbling economy as Russian troops arrive.
The vote came upon request of the Obama administration and it was overwhelming: 385-23. In those 23 negatives were four Georgia Republicans: Jack Kingston, Paul Broun, Tom Graves and Lynn Westmoreland.
Kingston spokesman Chris Crawford used the opportunity to take the administration to task, saying his boss is “concerned about rushing into a $1 billion loan guarantee without a more definitive approach by the United States.”
And this was from Broun spokeswoman Christine Hardman:
“Dr. Broun believes that sanctions, visa bans and the G-8 boycotts among others are more appropriate, effectual ways to send a message to Russia and help Ukraine stand on her own – not offering a billion dollar taxpayer-backed loan guarantee that is essentially Ukraine picking up Putin’s check.”
“I did not believe it was in our best interest to authorize the president to give a $1 billion loan guarantee to a country whose current government isn’t stable. The situation in Ukraine is changing daily, we don’t know who will be in power next, and we certainly don’t want money falling in the wrong hands.”
Georgia Democrats welcomed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to town with a scathing press conference linking Christie’s traffic debacle with Gov. Nathan Deal’s snowjam performance on Jan. 28.
He added: “Republicans hold governors like deal and Christie up as models of good government. People across the country deserve leaders who will preserve the trust.”
Christie is in town for a $10,000 private luncheon with Deal at the East Lake Golf Club to raise money for the Republican Governors Association. Christie also may get a glimpse at a real traffic nightmare: Atlanta’s downtown connector.
Our colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin notes this morning that Democratic state Rep. Tyrone Brooks questioned the timing of a letter from the estate of the late Martin Luther King Jr. to Gov. Nathan Deal insisting it play a role in any MLK statue erected on Capitol grounds.
Brooks, speaking from the floor of the House, said he personally told Martin Luther King III in December about the effort and gave MLK daughter Bernice King a copy in January.
Deal, Brooks said, spoke at a King Day service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in January and promoted the project. “No one objected,” Brooks said. “The next week, the lieutenant governor went public and said, ‘Yes, I support honoring Dr. King.’ No one objected.”
But, Brooks said, “on the day we passed legislation out of here and sent it to the Senate, all of a sudden letters are coming.”
Supporters of the bill, Brooks said, “are focused on honoring Dr. King. We’re not focused on having arguments. We’re not focused on bickering. We’re going to proceed and honor our leader.”
“Don’t be distracted by what you read this morning in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media,” he said. “We want to honor Dr. King.”
The Weekly Standard also notes that the U.S. House on Wednesday voted to reduce the fine for violating the Affordable Care Act’s insurance down to zero by a 250-160 vote that included 27 Democrats. The only Republican to vote against it was Paul Broun.
Speaking of Paul Broun, someone – we don’t know who – has done a serious job of backgrounding the Athens physician. We’re assuming this is a Republican effort, given the timing.
Take a good look at this fellow to the right.
You could call him the reason that the Legislature has taken up a bill to put a monument to the Ten Commandments on the state Capitol grounds, not to mention a(nother) bill to require food stamp recipients to undergo drug tests.
He didn’t write either of those measures. But D.L. “Lee” Burton of Vidalia, qualified on Thursday for a primary run against state Rep. Greg Morris, R-Vidalia, who is the lede sponsor of both HB 702 and 772.
Burton is a retired Navy Seal who’s been laying the groundwork for a challenge to Morris since last summer – and is taking credit for Morris’ higher profile this year. “I think people need to be able to get in touch with their representative,” Burton said. “Since October, I’m pretty sure we’ve been able to do that.”
Contrary to reports elsewhere, state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cummings, has signed up for another two-year term. But he’ll have to get by three primary challengers: Businessman Jack Schiff, Lauren McDonald III and Michael Williams.
State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, who is behind this year’s medical marijuana bill, faces a primary challenge from Brad Moriarty, a CrossFit instructor and electrical engineer running on a tea party platform.
State Sen. David Lucas of Macon picked up a challenger in realtor Miriam Paris, who promises a clean slate.
State Sen. Mike Dugan of Carrollton picked up a Republican primary rival as well as a Democratic challenger named James Harrison, who lists his profession as body piercer. His motto: “I may look different, but Georgia needs different.” He would almost assuredly be Georgia’s first senator with multiple facial tattoos.
But the toughest road ahead may be reserved for the man challenging Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, R-Duluth, (and his nearly $900,000 campaign war chest): A Democratic union rep named Rick Underwood.
Jeanne Bonner of Georgia Public Broadcasting caught up with Greg Hecht, the former Democratic state senator who will challenge the re-election bid of Attorney General Sam Olens. Writes Bonner:
The prosecution of state Senator Don Balfour has been one of the most [high-profile] public corruption cases in the past year. And Hecht said the contrast in how Olens dealt with that case and Deal’s alleged ethics violations is telling.
He said the state should have appointed a third-party to investigate the accusations against Balfour. [Balfour] was found not guilty on 18 counts of filing fraudulent expense reports after the state presented what jurors called a weak case against the lawmaker.
“You shouldn’t take low-lying fruit to try and say ‘I will prosecute one of my own’ on one case and on the other refuse to investigate,” he said of the two cases.
Add Albany U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop to the list of Democrats suggesting that if Georgia’s Republicans had played nicer with the Obama administration, the Savannah Port project would be in better shape. Said Bishop:
“I tend to wonder if the senators had been more cooperative on the judicial nominations, whether or not they might have gotten more consideration. I don’t know. I can’t say. … Mutual cooperation would probably facilitate a lot of things getting done.”
The senators blocked the president’s picks for federal judges in Georgia for years until a recent six-nominee bargain that has prompted a torrent of criticism from liberal groups and Georgia Democrats.