A few days ago, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams joked to a crowd of Gwinnett business leaders she wouldn't mention the "M-E word" - Medicaid expansion. But the Atlanta Democrat made clear this week she and other Georgia Democrats will continue to press for the expansion of the program, despite fading hopes the federal funding to pay for it will survive after Donald Trump's election.
"The Democratic Party is going to continue to argue for Medicaid expansion. We're going to argue for coverage of as many Georgians as possible," she told WABE's Denis O'Hayer Wednesday. "And the Republican response is going to be the governing response: 'We don't think we can afford it.' Our argument is that we think you can, you just simply won't make the investment."
Gov. Nathan Deal and other Republican leaders have long resisted expanding the state's Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, saying it was too costly in the long run, though a growing number of GOP lawmakers hoped to force the conversation this legislative session.
Trump's victory has sidelined the debate, and his pick of U.S. Rep. Tom Price as health secretary - who has made dismantling Obamacare his passion - means vast changes are coming to the program. Abrams said she has little hope of swaying Price or Deal to change their minds. But she hopes to put the onus on Republicans now in complete control of Washington.
Here's a snippet of her interview with O'Hayer:
Abrams: "The responsibility of Democrats is to demand that, if we are not going to take the obvious and offered solution, to need to demand from Republicans what are you going to do about the healthcare crisis that's facing Georgia."
O'Hayer: "But you don't have any suggestions for them?"
Abrams: "Oh, we do. Medicaid expansion."
O'Hayer: "But if that's a non-starter, why not say, OK, we got a Plan B here?"
Abrams: "This isn't a function of Plan A or a Plan B. There's one bucket of money, and that money has on the outside of its label 'Medicaid expansion.' The challenge is do we decide to access that bucket or not ..."
One of the most bitter internal Trump administration clashes is over, and it left a Georgia Republican operative as the runner-up to one of the GOP's top posts.
Cobb native Nick Ayers was backed by Mike Pence, Stephen Bannon and other top Trump aides to run the Republican National Committee. But Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus, the RNC's current head, sided with Michigan GOP chair Ronna McDaniel and his faction won the day.
McDaniel's promotion was made official in a news release Wednesday.
“I’m excited to have a highly effective leader in Ronna McDaniel as RNC Deputy Chair and I look forward to her serving as the Party’s Chairman in 2017,” said President-elect Donald J. Trump. “Ronna has been extremely loyal to our movement and her efforts were critical to our tremendous victory in Michigan, and I know she will bring the same passion to the Republican National Committee.”
Don't shed too many tears for Ayers, who ran Sonny Perdue's re-election campaign and is now a top aide to Pence. If he doesn't join the administration in another role, he's likely to continue his high-paid gig as a behind-the-scenes GOP operative.
A dose of good news for Georgia's economy, care of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business:
"Many of the same forces that contributed specifically to Georgia's growth in the past two years will be even stronger in 2017," said Dean Benjamin C. Ayers. "First, Georgia has even more projects in its economic development pipeline. Second, Georgia's economy will get more leverage from the housing recovery than the national economy. Third, Georgia's manufacturers will continue to do better than U.S. manufacturers. Fourth, Georgia will see faster population growth."
Georgia Democrats barely gained any ground in the fight over the state Legislature this November, but they're hoping to ramp up the pressure on a handful of the GOP's most vulnerable incumbents over the next two years.
A list circulating in Democratic circles features the names of 15 Republican state lawmakers, all from metro Atlanta, in districts won by Democrat Hillary Clinton last month.
Check out the list below:
6 - Hunter Hill (R) - Cobb
40 - Fran Millar (R) - Dekalb
48 - David Shafer (R) - Gwinnett
37 - Sam Teasley (R) - Marietta
40 - Rich Golick (R) - Smyrna
51 - Wendell Willard (R) Sandy Springs
52 - Deborah Silcox (R) - Atlanta
54 - Beth Beskin (R) - Atlanta
79 - Tom Taylor (R) - Dunwoody
80 - Meagan Hanson (R) - Brookhaven
105 - Joyce Chandler (R) - Lawrenceville
106 - Brett Harrell (R) - Lawrenceville
107 - David Casas (R) - Lilburn
108 - Clay Cox (R)- Lilburn
111 - Brian Strickland (R) - McDonough