Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Devil in the details
In advance of the much-anticipated talks today between the White House and congressional leaders on how to avert a national default, Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter has been keen to disassociate himself from House Republicans usually seen as more hardline than he.
In contrast to those Republicans who appear prepared to go to the brink and risk a default in their effort to sharply cut federal spending, Coastal Georgia’s congressman tweeted last week:
“The debate right now is not about whether to raise the debt ceiling. The debate is whether to do so responsibly, which shouldn’t even be a question. That’s why @HouseGOP passed a bill to pay our debts while protecting taxpayer dollars and growing the economy.”
The bill to which Carter referred — H.R. 2811 — would lift the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or through March 2024, whichever comes first, in addition to cutting $130 billion in government funding next fiscal year.
Yet for all of his talking points about the federal government’s lavish spending (“It’s time for Washington to cut up the credit cards” “Our credit cards are maxed out”), Carter hasn’t given any detailed account of what government spending he would cut. He only acknowledged last month that House Republicans have discussed work requirements for Medicaid and other government assistance programs.
Most House Republicans have indicated that they don’t want to cut defense spending, veterans’ health care spending, or Medicare or Social Security. Nor do they want to use the debt negotiations to start a conversation about raising taxes on the richest Americans and wealthiest corporations.
Carter, of course, is a leading proponent of abolishing all personal and corporate income taxes, the death tax, gift taxes, and the payroll tax, and replacing them with a single national consumption tax.
To balance the budget in 10 years, which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy promised House Republicans a plan to do, would mean doing away with programs that many Republican lawmakers and voters value.
According to letters from agency heads to the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, it would require the FBI to reduce its staff by 11,000 employees, the Federal Aviation Administration to close 125 air traffic control towers, and the loss of access to community health centers for more than 2 million families, among other cuts.
The devil, as they say, is in the details. For more of them as the debt limit talks get under way, here’s a breakdown of the differences between the plans by Biden and McCarthy to shore up the government’s finances. For a thorough history on the national debt ceiling, see this. For one of the many misleading and downright false claims about the federal deficit — this one proffered repeatedly by President Biden — see this.
Eyes on a prize
For a politically savvy governor seeking to keep his options open on the eve of a presidential election year, Gov. Brian Kemp’s swing through Coastal Georgia last week could hardly be beat.
At the construction site of the $5.5 billion Hyundai electric motor vehicle and battery metaplant in Ellabell, Kemp on Friday signed the state budget, which calls for $55.9 billion in spending, $32.4 billion of it in state money and the rest in federal and other funds, in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Hours later, at the Chatham County Sheriff’s office in Savannah, Kemp signed a bill creating a new commission empowered to discipline and remove wayward prosecutors, saying it will curb “far-left prosecutors” who are “making our communities less safe.”
In talking tough about delinquent prosecutors, Kemp showed that he isn’t going to allow any Republican rival to outflank him on the right on the issue of law and order — whether next year, in a challenge to Sen. Jon Ossoff in 2026, or a presidential run in 2028, The Current’s Craig Nelson writes.
Georgia’s Atlanta-centered media focused on what the new law might mean for Fani Willis, the Fulton County DA who is weighing criminal charges against Trump over interference in Georgia’s 2020 elections. Willis has criticized the law, claiming it’s a racist attack after voters elected 14 nonwhite district attorneys in Georgia in 2020
But when the oversight panel starts accepting complaints Oct. 1, don’t assume it will zero in on Willis.
Far more likely — and less politically risky — targets for the panel are Shalena Cook Jones, the Chatham County DA, and her counterpart in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties, Deborah Gonzalez.
The death of one person and wounding of four others in last week’s shooting attack in the waiting room of a midtown Atlanta medical practice is already ancient history, eclipsed by the shooting deaths of eight people at a Texas outlet mall three days later.
Reactions by Georgia lawmakers to the Atlanta shootings ran the gamut from calls for limits on guns and meditations on the irrationality of violence to calls to arm up.
Sen. Jon Ossoff called the Atlanta shootings “unconscionable and unacceptable.” U.S. Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter called them a “senseless tragedy.”
Sen. Raphael Warnock said mass shootings are the cost not of freedom but of “blind obstinance.” U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene urged an end to gun-free zones to “allow Americans to protect themselves and others.” Even before the Atlanta and Texas attacks, mass shootings in the U.S. were on a record pace, the Associated Press reported.
“Nobody should be shocked,’ said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter was one of 17 people killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school in 2018. ‘I visit my daughter in a cemetery. Outrage doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.”
For your calendar
“Protecting Reproductive Freedom and Electing More Women in 2024,” a panel discussion featuring state Reps. Edna Jackson and Rep. Anne Allen Westbrook; Fenika Miller, deputy national field director, Black Lives Matter; and Melita Easters, WIN List executive director and founder, will take place tomorrow (Wednesday) at Savannah’s Beach Institute, 502 E. Harris Street, from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. The discussion will be moderated by The Current’s editor in chief, Margaret Coker.
- “Sen. Ossoff Delivering New Hurricane and Tornado Shelter to Tybee Island to Protect First Responders, Improve Public Safety” (News release, Office of Sen. Jon Ossoff, May 4, 2023) “Sen. Ossoff is delivering new resources through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to construct a new hurricane and tornado safe room on Tybee Island, providing a safe area for emergency personnel who must remain on the Island during hurricanes and other disaster situations.”
- “Georgia election chief dashes Dems’ dream of frontrunner relevance with March 12, 2024 primary” (Georgia Recorder, May 5, 2023) “Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced on Thursday that March 12, 2024, is the date for next year’s partisan primary, which squashed wishes of the Democratic Party of Georgia for a Feb. 13 contest that would put the state in a prominent position with the earliest slated state primaries.”
- “Clock winds down for Georgians to requalify for Medicaid with coverage for up to 500,000 at risk” (GPB, May 2, 2023) “Medicaid renewals are back after a three-year hiatus during the pandemic, when states were barred from kicking people off the public insurance program during the COVID-19 crisis. And the yearlong process of determining the eligibility of all 2.7 million adults and children covered by Medicaid started last month could end with more than a half million Georgians losing coverage because they no longer qualify.”
- “Biden faces broad negative ratings at start of campaign, Post-ABC poll finds” (Washington Post, May 7, 2023) “The president’s approval ratings slip to a new low, more Americans than not doubt his mental acuity, and his support against leading GOP challengers is far shakier than at this point four years ago.”
- “Sen. Ossoff Working to Protect Gullah Geechee Communities from Coastal Flooding & Sea-Level Rise” (News release, Office of Sen. Jon Ossoff, May 3, 2023) “Sen. Ossoff is pushing to deliver funding and resources through the bipartisan infrastructure law to improve coastal resilience throughout the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, including protected lands in Coastal Georgia.”
Kemp showed that he isn’t going to allow any Republican rival to outflank him on the right on the issue of law and order — whether next year, in a challenge to Sen. Jon Ossoff in 2026, or a presidential run in 2028.
The 14 vetoes were highlighted by legislation sponsored by several GOP legislative leaders to establish a needs-based program of tuition grants for Georgia college students.
As court battles continue over licenses, an open government group announced Friday it is asking the state Supreme Court to reverse lower court decisions and release court records from the fraught approval process.
Law represents an important and deliberate move to tackle a long-simmering property rights debate that was galvanized by the state’s decision to settle a lawsuit with a landowner just two days before the Legislature wound down for the year.
Federal law currently allows low-income pregnant women to receive cash aid through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, but Georgia law does not. The General Assembly overwhelmingly passed House Bill 129 to rectify that
The governor also acknowledged there seems to be some uncertainty about the bill’s language. He said the upcoming House Study Committee on Fishing Access to Freshwater Resources will provide an opportunity for clarity.
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