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Tom Price bows out of Southern fight for House GOP leadership

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U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, has bowed out of race for House majority leader. AJC file

U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, has bowed out of race for House majority leader. AJC file

Take a look at the current, soon-to-be juggled GOP leadership of the U.S. House: Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California.

None hail from the modern Republican foundation that is the Deep South. Which is why Pete Sessions of Texas has emerged as a rival to McCarthy in the quick contest to replace Cantor, who was defeated in Tuesday’s primary.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogU.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, bowed out this morning. A statement just released by his office:

“The encouragement I’ve received from colleagues over these past couple of days has been humbling…. [A]t this time, my focus is on the opportunity to serve as the next chairman of the House Budget Committee.”

Which explains Price’s absence from a Washington Post article that includes this:

Conservatives, long suspicious of a leadership team dominated by five lawmakers from states President Obama won twice, are adamant that this is their opportunity to plant someone they consider more ideologically aligned with them in at least one of the top three slots.

Southerners, who had a stranglehold on top GOP leadership posts in the 1990s, are also trying to solidify ranks to ensure they get a prime seat at the table.

“I just think that there is a geographical area of the country that has not been represented in leadership, and I think that could be the determining factor in what happens,” said Rep. Lynn A. Westmoreland (R-Ga.).

***

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is the only Jewish Republican in Congress and has served as a symbol of outreach for the GOP. But was Cantor ousted by voters because of his religion? Here’s the reply from the New York Times:

The answer to that, political analysts and Jewish leaders in Richmond say, is no: Mr. Cantor, who resigned as House majority leader on Wednesday, effective July 31, was toppled because voters saw him as out of touch. Mr. Cantor appeared to give a nod to the religion issue on Wednesday, when he opened a news conference by saying that “growing up in the Jewish faith” he had “read a lot in the Old Testament, and you learn about setbacks.”

But analysts do say that Mr. Brat — who has a divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and often invokes God in his speeches — appeals to Christian conservatives in a way that Mr. Cantor simply cannot.

“I think he was able to be an attractive candidate to that particular constituency,” said Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “Cantor doesn’t employ that kind of rhetoric.”

***

We told you Wednesday that Eric Cantor’s defeat quickly rippled into the GOP runoff to replace U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, with Savannah surgeon Bob Johnson accusing state Sen. Buddy Carter of Cantor-like Republican liberalism.

Carter forces have struck back, accusing Johnson of harboring a vestige of good will toward illegal immigrants. From Walter Jones of the Morris News Service:

“Johnson campaigned on policies that reward and promote illegal immigration just like amnesty does, and then he signed a pledge of a contradictory position. So, which time was he telling us the truth?” ask Carter, who signed the same pledge first.

Johnson’s name is the latest one appearing in a list of candidates who have signed a pledge on the website for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The political hopefuls vow to oppose “any form of work authorization to illegal aliens.”

But he has twice been recorded by Carter’s operatives saying he favors a way for undocumented aliens to work and pay taxes.

The Carter campaign provided us a clip of Johnson’s remarks — the video is muddy, but the audio is sharp:

UPDATE 1:39 p.m.: Johnson spokeswoman Maria Jeffrey struck back, saying Carter does not have any solution at all:

“Dr. Bob has consistently said, ‘no to amnesty’ and ‘no to a path to citizenship,’ and also wants those currently here illegally counted and accounted for so they’re not milking off the system. What’s Carter’s plan? He has none. The fact is Buddy Carter is an ethically challenged, establishment professional politician, with a liberal voting record, who refuses to support term limits in Congress. And the people will have a clear choice in this run-off between conservative outsider, Dr. Bob Johnson and Buddy Carter who has been too liberal for too long.”

***

Georgia Republicans are telling us that, if there’s a lesson to be learned from the defeat of Eric Cantor, it’s that gerrymandering can go too far. Cantor’s Virginia district was tweaked in 2010 to make it more conservative. That benefited the House majority leader in 2012, but then punished him with deadly opposition from the right.

The practice of packing of districts, whether on the state or federal level, makes this new report from the Pew Research Center all the more relevant:

Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades. These trends manifest themselves in myriad ways, both in politics and in everyday life. And a new survey of 10,000 adults nationwide finds that these divisions are greatest among those who are the most engaged and active in the political process.Some chartage:

pewchart

Another taste of the report:

In 1994, hardly a time of amicable partisan relations, a majority of Republicans had an unfavorable view of Democrats, but just 17% expressed a “very unfavorable” view. Today that figure has more than doubled to 43%. Among Democrats, the share expressing a “very unfavorable” view of Republicans has increased from 16% to 38%.

…With Barack Obama in the White House, intense partisan antipathy is more pronounced among Republicans, especially consistently conservative Republicans. Fully 66% of consistently conservative Republicans think the Democrats’ policies threaten the nation’s well-being. By comparison, half (50%) of consistently liberal Democrats say Republican policies jeopardize the nation’s well-being.

***

Six Georgia nominees for positions in the federal judiciary — the ones who aren’t state Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs — won’t get a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee today. That’s been postponed until next week.

***

Intrepid AJC intern Nick Fouriezos took Rep. Jack Kingston up on his offer to release his tax returns.

We already knew thanks to his federal financial disclosures that the Savannah Republican was worth somewhere between $2.18 million and $3.19 million. The tax records filled in some of the blanks.

Among the findings:

  • His gross income has remained between $148,000 and 163,754 in the last five years.
  • Kingston has owned a trio of Savannah-area rentals since at least 2008, but they haven’t done well for him. He reported a net loss of $405 in rent expenses on the properties, as of the time of the 2012 filin
  • His effective tax rate ranged from a low of 13.76 percent in 2008, which was also his lowest year in taxable income, to a high of 16.88 percent in 2012, when he had his highest taxable income.

***

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville is one of three House Republicans who did tours in Iraq and are now looking askance at the uprising there. From the National Journal:

And none of the congressmen thought there was much the United States could do.

“I think at this point the administration made a choice to cut and run,” Collins said. “When Fallujah fell again, we knew this foreign policy had consequences. Aside from an intervention, which I don’t think is on anybody’s mind, Iraq is going to have defend for itself. At this point we’ll see if the Iraqi security forces are capable.”

Fallujah fell to militants in January. The city was taken by U.S. forces in late 2004 at the cost of more than 100 American soldiers’ lives, the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War.

***

The 11th District GOP will host a Saturday, pre-Fathers Day debate between Republican runoff candidates Bob Barr and Barry Loudermilk, the two survivors in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta.

The hostilities at the Bailey Performance Center on the Kennesaw State University campus begin at 6:30 p.m. Moderators will be Randy Evans, a Georgia member of the Republican National Committee, and Joe Kirby of the Marietta Daily Journal.

***

Speaking of the 11th District runoff: Bob Barr has picked up an endorsement from Kim Gresh, who chaired the congressional campaign of Tricia Pridemore. Gesh pointed to the local Lockheed operation as her motivation. From the press release:

“The single largest employer in our district is Lockheed – only Bob Barr has a proven track record of not only protecting but expanding Lockheed jobs. More than this, there are hundreds, if not thousands of businesses that exist only because the presence of Lockheed and Dobbins.”

***

More than a few Democrats have pointed out a seeming incongruity in the Republican Governors Association ads slamming Jason Carter’s willingness to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The reason: The RGA’s head, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, backed a similar Medicaid expansion in his state.

***

U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, is offering a nonbinding resolution condemning the Obama administration for the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap. Said Barrow:

“After receiving a classified briefing from the Administration, I disagree with how the Administration negotiated with terrorists for the transfer of terrorists we already had in custody. I’m concerned that they failed to follow the law to give proper notice to Congress. Checks and balances aren’t negotiable. Congress is ready to listen, and it’s critical that the Administration not treat Congress as an adversary or as an afterthought.”

Barrow was joined in the resolution by another endangered Democrat, West Virginia’s Nick Rahall, and a pair of more moderate Republicans, Scott Rigell of Virginia and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin.

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