Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

GOP Senate chairman on Medicaid expansion: ‘How long can you sit there and say, ‘No, no, no’?

We told you some time ago that 2017 might be the year that Georgia, however grudgingly, accepts Obamacare and decides to expand Medicaid coverage in some fashion.

Last week, state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, chairman of that chamber’s Health and Human Services Committee, said she’s ready to look in that direction. On Wednesday, she elaborated in a lengthy, 20-minute interview with Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1 FM). A small slice:

Unterman: “How long can you actually sit there and say, ‘No, no, no, we don’t want something,’ and continue to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into sustaining a system that’s not very good anyway.”


O’Hayer: “And you’re having to do that because you’re not drawing down the federal dollars that you would have had, had you expanded Medicaid.”

Unterman: “Right. The federal infrastructure has changed, but the state has not changed with it.”

O’Hayer: “In hindsight, was that a mistake?”

Unterman: “I don’t think so. We’re a very conservative state. I think it was the right thing to do, to look at the direction. And you have to understand, we were right in the middle of the recession, and we were robbing Peter to pay Paul to maintain our AAA bond rating….

“As a decision-maker, my question is, for how long can you say no and keep the system status quo? Because we have several very important deadlines that are looming that represent hundreds of millions of dollars. As you recall, we have the hospital bed tax. That is coming up for a sunset. And that’s a huge amount of money that has to be substituted in some direction.”

O’Hayer: “It won’t be renewed, you think?”

Unterman: “Well, it has to be voted on.....”


Republicans were able to slip a spy into a gathering of Hall County Democrats on Monday to listen to U.S. Senate candidate Jim Barksdale discuss, among other things, the Orlando massacre. Barksdale spoke of his support for the Second Amendment and the need for background checks and no-buy lists – stances that have broad support even within the GOP.

Then the Democratic candidate began to wax philosophical, building on a point made by Martin Luther King Jr.:

“He said the atomic bombs that science has created, we have to fear – but that’s not really what we have to fear. Not the atomic bomb that science has created, but the atomic bombs in our souls. In our hearts. When we hate someone, that hate is wrong. It always has been wrong. It always will be wrong. It was wrong in 2000 B.C., it was wrong in 1964 when he said it, and it’s wrong in 2016 today. It was wrong in Germany, it’s wrong in America.

“So this is the atomic bomb in our hearts today. We have to heal that soul. To me, when I say that America is captive, it’s captive to this narrative of violence and hate. I feel that’s part of what we need to be working on, and I would like to elevate the conversation.”

To this, a spokesman for the Georgia GOP, took great umbrage. From the press release:

"Of all the comments made by politicians, candidates, organizations, and citizens, Jim Barksdale's are the most offensive," said Ryan Mahoney, a spokesman for the Georgia Republican Party. "The innocent men and women killed on Sunday morning did not deserve to be murdered by a radical, heartless terrorist. They were not held ‘captive’ by violence or hate.  They were not ‘in the wrong.’”

"Like Senator Johnny Isakson said, now is the time to wage war against those who are committed to destroying us.  If we "step back" as Jim Barksdale suggests, it is only a matter of time before another city, another family, or another person falls victim to radical Islamic terrorism."

Here’s the thing: If the Pulse nightclub had been a random target selected by gunman shipped in straight from Yemen, then Republican outrage probably applies. But if the monster who did it was a home-grown, lone gunman acting from a blend of motives – religious outrage (however perverted), homophobia, perhaps more than a touch of self-loathing -- then Barksdale’s musings on gun violence may be a little preachy, but they don’t seem out of place.

One more note to Republicans: You have access to the money. Next time, please give your mole better sound equipment, or ask him to move closer to the speaker.


Less than a month after his Senate GOP primary loss, it looks like self-styled "minister of truth" Derrick Grayson is already exploring a future run for office.

Cobb GOP activist Justin Tomczak highlighted this Facebook link yesterday afternoon:

Since getting quashed by incumbent Johnny Isakson in the May 24 Senate Republican primary, Grayson's has kept his campaign Twitter handle relatively active. Indeed, the MARTA engineer has tweeted the this same message 21 times since election night, and perhaps expecting a different result:


We told you yesterday about a bill in the U.S. House that would block non-veterans such as Atlanta Democrat John Lewis from the honor of having naval ships named after them. Turns out that as quickly as the measure came along, it was stopped in its tracks.

The powerful House Rules Committee did not include the provision in its list of 75 amendments the House would vote on as it considers a Pentagon spending bill this week.


Georgia Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Allen Buckley criticized incumbent Johnny Isakson for supporting the annual defense policy bill earlier this week because it would require women to register for the draft.

"America no longer uses the draft and does not need it," Buckley said in a statement. "Yet, this relic of a dismal past lingers upon our statute books without legitimate purpose. It needs to go." The Libertarian Party has long opposed the military draft.

The debate over whether to require women to sign up for the Selective Service has raged for years. As NPR points out, the Senate defense bill is still a long ways from becoming law.

Here's the reaction from a spokeswoman for Isakson:

To suggest that Senator Isakson should have voted against a bill that includes critical provisions to ensure our military has the resources it needs to protect our national security interests around the world is appalling and incredibly naïve.

As long as we face the threat of radical Islamic terrorists and others around the world who are determined to destroy our way of life, Senator Isakson will never fail to support funding for our warfighters and our national defense to send a clear signal to the rest of the world that America has no intention of standing down in the fight against terrorism worldwide.


Senator Isakson was disappointed that an amendment that would have struck a provision in the Senate NDAA to require women to register for the draft in place of a study by the Department of Defense did not receive the full debate and a vote that it deserved.


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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.