Political Insider

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Karen Handel gets drawn into U.S. House flap over family separations


Temporarily presiding over the U.S. House on Friday, U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, found herself injected into the debate over family separation when U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, refused to turn off a ProPublica recording of children crying in a detention center.

Lieu began his six-minute speech of an administration policy that President Donald Trump reversed on Thursday with a religious-oriented condemnation. Two minutes into his time, he reached into his jacket and apparently turned on a recording device. Watch:

Handel, taking her turn as the designated Republican overseeing actions in the chamber, immediately asked him to stop, citing a House rule that forbids the playing of electronic devices. Ultimately, Lieu was confronted by the sergeant of arms, reached into his jacket, and turned the device off.

Presiding over the chamber during periods of inaction isn’t the honor that it might seem. The duty is often given to members with low seniority – and Handel has just finished her first year in Congress.

Ironically, the Roswell Republican was one of the few Georgia Republicans contacted by the AJC this week who was willing to sound off on the Trump policy of separating parents and children who cross the southern U.S. border illegally. Her statement, issued before Thursday’s vote in the House:

“I am deeply troubled by the emerging details of young children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. We must find a more humane, compassionate approach — one that keeps families together to the fullest extent possible — as U.S. immigration authorities determine appropriate next steps. At the same time, we must secure our borders once and for all in order to stop the flow of illegal crossings.

“This week, the House will consider two immigration reform bills. Both bills will address family separation and provide the resources required for real, long-term border security. Now is the time for solutions and action, and I hope that Republicans and Democrats will come together, so that we can move forward with immigration policies and processes that reflect our nation’s values while respecting our laws.”

In November, Handel will face one of two Democrats who are currently locked in a July 24 runoff, Lucy McBath of Marietta and Kevin Abel of Sandy Springs. Both had quick Twitter fingers this afternoon, passing the video on to their supporters.

From Abel:

Over 2000 children need to be reunited with their parents NOW. #GA06 needs a representative who recognizes the plight of these children, not one who is going to silence their cries.

From McBath:

@karenhandel should be ashamed of herself. If you cannot face the impact of your hateful policies on the floor of Congress, then you do not deserve to serve. #VoteThemOut


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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.