Unfortunately, the report is in the subscription-only Roll Call today, but here’s the dish: Georgia Republican legislators have agreed on a re-redistricting of the state’s Congressional districts that’s basically designed to mess with two Democratic incumbents and shore up a vulnerable Republican incumbent.Freshman Dem Rep. John Barrow’s home county of Clarke (Athens) is moved out of his district, though his staff makes it clear he’ll run for re-election in the 12th anyway. Interestingly enough, the map-drawers managed to actually increase the African-American percentage of the voting age population in the 12th while reducing its Democratic performance level. That’s because Athens (home of the University of Georgia) probably has more white Democrats than any city in the state. Still, it remains a majority-Democratic district, and it’s hard to call Barrow a carpetbagger when the carpet’s actually been pulled out from under him.More serious damage was done to 3d District (central-west central GA) Rep. Jim Marshall, whose district goes from 40% African-American to 33%, with Bush having won 58% of the 2000 vote (the measure of GOP performance since the population figures are from the 2000 census) in the new map as opposed to 52% in the old. Since Marshall waxed Calder Clay, a well-funded and hand-picked GOP challenger in 2004, by a 63-37 margin, Georgia Dems think he should be able to hold the district. But it’s worth noting that the home of former Congressman Mac Collins, who lost the GOP Senate nomination in ’04, has been quietly slipped into Marshall’s district, which may mean Collins is considering a comeback.Meanwhile, 11th District (northwest GA) Rep. Phil Gingrey would get a district radically reshaped in his favor, with the African-American population dropping from 28% to 12%, and Republican performance being boosted from 51% to 64%. This is no huge surprise, since the 11th was originally designed as a very competitive district. And while I wouldn’t want to call the Gentleman from the 11th a wingnut or anything, it is rumored he has to wear special weights to keep him from keeling over on his right side while walking.The lawyers who follow this sort of thing think the Power Grab will probably survive Voting Rights Act scrutiny, because its authors were careful to avoid any direct impact on Georgia’s four African-American House incumbents. But there’s a possible legal hook in the murky doctrine of “minority-influence districts,” wherein the Voting Rights Act can be violated if action is taken to dilute a high if not majority percentage of minority voters, which arguably is the case with both the Marshall and Gingrey remaps.According to Roll Call, some Georgia Dems are reportedly relieved that the re-redistricting was not as drastic as some had feared. Perhaps the threat of retaliation elsewhere had a mitigating effect. But the principle of the thing remains outrageous, and for my money, Democrats should wheel out the lawyers and write up the talking points to fight it.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
The federal government is going to shut down this weekend, barring some miracle. And Democrats really need to make sure Americans know exactly who insisted on this avoidable crisis. It’s the House GOP, as I explained at New York.
If you are bewildered by the inability of Congress to head off a government shutdown beginning this weekend, don’t feel poorly informed: Some of the Capitol’s top wizards are throwing up their hands as well, as the Washington Post reports:
“’We are truly heading for the first-ever shutdown about nothing,’ said Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank. Strain has started referring to the current GOP House-led impasse as “the ‘Seinfeld’ shutdown,” a reference to the popular sitcom widely known as ‘a show about nothing.’ ‘The weirdest thing about it is that the Republicans don’t have any demands. What do they want? What is it that they’re going to shut the government down for? We simply don’t know.’”
That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Many House Republicans, led by a band of right-wing hard-liners, want to impose their fiscal and policy views on the nation despite the GOP’s narrow majority in the House. Their chief asset, beyond fanaticism, is that the federal government can’t remain open past the end of the fiscal year without the concurrence of the House, and they don’t really mind an extended government shutdown, if only to preen and posture. They are being encouraged in this wildly irresponsible position by their leader and likely 2024 presidential nominee Donald Trump.
But the hard-liners’ real motive, it seems, is to use the dysfunction they’ve caused in the House to get rid of Speaker Kevin McCarthy for being dysfunctional. The not-so-hidden plan hatched by Florida congressman Matt Gaetz is to thwart every effort by McCarthy to move forward with spending plans for the next fiscal year and then defenestrate him via a motion to vacate the chair, which just five Republicans can pass any time they wish (with the complicity of Democrats). Indeed, the Post reports the rebels are casting about for a replacement Speaker right now:
“A contingent of far-right House Republicans is plotting an attempt to remove Kevin McCarthy as House speaker as early as next week, a move that would throw the chamber into further disarray in the middle of a potential government shutdown, according to four people familiar with the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.”
McCarthy’s tormenters would like to have a successor lined up who will presumably be even less inclined to compromise with Democrats than the current Speaker. And that’s saying a lot, since McCarthy has already bowed to the Gaetz demand that House Republicans reject even the idea of a continuing resolution — the stopgap spending measures used to forestall or end government shutdowns in the past — and instead plod through individual appropriations bills loaded with provisions no Democrat would ever accept (e.g., deep domestic spending cuts, draconian border policies, anti-Ukraine measures, and abortion restrictions). It’s a recipe for a long shutdown, but it’s clear if McCarthy moves a muscle toward negotiating with Democrats (who have already passed a CR in the Senate), then kaboom! Here comes the motion to vacate.
Some observers think getting rid of McCarthy is an end in itself for the hard-liners — particularly Gaetz, who has a long-standing grudge against the Californian and opposed his original selection as Speaker to the bitter end — no matter what he does or doesn’t do. In theory, House Democrats could save McCarthy by lending a few “no” votes to him if the motion to vacate hits the floor, but they’ve made it clear the price for saving him would be high, including abandonment of the GOP’s Biden impeachment inquiry.
So strictly speaking, the impending shutdown isn’t “about nothing”; it’s about internal far-right factional politics that very few of the people about to be affected by the shutdown care about at all. Understandably, most Democrats from President Biden on down are focusing their efforts on making sure the public knows this isn’t about “big government” or “politicians” or “partisan polarization,” but about one party’s extremism and cannibalistic infighting. For now, there’s little anyone outside the GOP fever swamps can do about it other than watch the carnage.