U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal will delay his resignation from Congress by three weeks, citing intense pressure from House Republican leaders to remain and vote against President Barack Obama’s plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system.
From the press release issued by the north Georgia congressman:
“Just two days after I announced my intentions to leave Congress, the majority party stepped up the schedule for the proposed health care bill. Having been deeply involved in all health care legislation for the past decade, I knew it was important to stay and vote down this bill….
“Yesterday, as I listened to President Obama’s aggressive push for a quick vote on ‘Obama-Care,’ it was clear that I must stay in Congress and continue to fight against the most liberal health care agenda ever proposed.”
A spokesman for Deal said the congressman was urged by House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — as well as Gov. Sonny Perdue — to remain for the health care vote.
The Deal campaign released a statement from Boehner, which reads in part:
“It has become clear to the American people that the House will be the final battleground in their effort to stop President Obama’s massive health care takeover from becoming law…. Nathan Deal’s decision to remain in Congress for the upcoming health care vote is indicative of his long dedication to standing up for a common sense approach to changing health care.”
News of Deal’s decision was inadvertently broken by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, who also congratulated Deal on his decision.
On Monday, before 100 supporters at the Gainesville Civic Center, Deal said he would leave Congress, effective March 8, in order to devote all his time to his campaign for governor.
The north Georgia congressman immediately began taking heat from Republicans here and elsewhere, as it became clear that the vote on health care in the House will be tight.
This appeared in a John Fund column in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal:
His departure next week will take sitting House members down to 431, meaning the magic number to pass health care drops to 216. Why did Mr. Deal make it easier for Democrats to reshape one-sixth of the nation’s economy
The announcement of Deal’s delayed departure said that the congressman “discussed the change with Governor Sonny Perdue, who strongly encouraged him to stay.”
Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said that Deal indeed called the governor to let him know he had decided to postpone his resignation.
The governor, Brantley told my AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin, “encouraged him to represent us well in D.C.” But asked whether the governor encouraged Deal to remain in the U.S. House, Brantley said that Deal had already made that decision.
The distinction could be significant, because — by delaying his departure from Congress until the end of this month — Deal puts more pressure on Perdue to delay a special election to fill the 9th District seat until the July primary.
The earliest such an election could be held now is mid-May. The primary is July 20. But it’s Perdue’s call.
Theoretically, a special election concurrent with the July primary would benefit Deal’s gubernatorial chances by creating a strong 9th District turnout to fill his shoes.
But it would also be confusing, requiring two rounds of balloting: One would be a special, non-partisan election to fill Deal’s term through the end of 2010. The same candidates, most of them Republican, would appear on the ballots selected by Democratic and Republican voters.
A second round of voting, for the full two-year term that begins next January, would be segregated by party. Republican voters would only be able to vote for Republican candidates, and Democratic voters could only vote for Democratic candidates.
One additional side effect for Deal: By resigning from Congress, the Republican candidate for governor ended an ethics inquiry into whether Deal misused his office in an attempt to protect his private business in north Georgia.
Whether the inquiry could be revived and a report issued over the next three weeks is a question worth asking.
In the press release announcing his decision, Deal couldn’t resist taking a shot at state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, the Republican currently leading the field for governor:
“I announced my resignation from Congress to focus on winning the Republican primary for governor so as to deny Roy Barnes the opportunity to face the Republican candidate who currently leads solely based on name recognition, but is the one Republican that Roy Barnes is sure to defeat.”
Teachers, some of you will be asked to define a run-on sentence this week. The one above might qualify.
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