The words Georgia Republicans want to hear from President Obama: ‘Port’ and ‘Savannah’

If you are a Republican elsewhere in the nation, there are certain phrases you hope to hear come out of President Barack Obama’s mouth this evening in his State of the Union speech.

Most of them begin with the words, “I surrender.”

But if you are a Georgia Republican, or the mayor of Atlanta, or a member of the state’s business establishment, you will be on the edge of your seat – waiting for “port” or “coastal” and “infrastructure” or “construction” to escape Obama’s lips.

The Amerigo Vespucci is unloaded at the Port of Savannah in Savannah, Ga./ AJC file

The Amerigo Vespucci is unloaded at the Port of Savannah in Savannah, Ga./ AJC file

The state’s political elite will be looking for any hint that next month – despite bipartisan insistence on a decrease in federal spending – Obama will include $700 million or so in his budget proposal, due out in mid-February, for the dredging of the Port of Savannah.

Refurbishing the port so that it can handle super-container ships that will pass through the Panama Canal in 2014 has become the state’s top economic development priority.

But the Republican ban on earmarks in Congress has made the project a dicey thing. If not in the Obama budget, Georgia Republicans in Congress would have find a way to put it in, whether by earmark or some other name. U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss have already said the Port of Savannah is important enough to the state’s economy to do so.

But it could be a messy thing. Which is why Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, was sought out last year to escort Alec Poitevint, chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority one of the most influential Republicans in the state, into the White House to make a case for the spending.

We asked Brian Robinson, spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, if he would be looking for mention of Savannah tonight. “The governor would rather see it in a budget than in a speech,” Robinson replied.

On Friday, Deal plans to be in Savannah. A national news network will have cameras there, to catch the arrival of CMA CGM Parisfal, the largest container ship ever to call on the Port of Savannah. It will be a spectacularly tight fit.

Deal will be there to make the case for a port that’s six feet deeper. We do not know if the governor been asked to help apply the Vaseline required by the ship.

“Parsifal,” by the way, is the name of a Wagnerian opera about the search for the Holy Grail. Which seems appropriate.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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29 comments Add your comment

Double Zero Eight

January 25th, 2011
5:12 pm

I would not hold my breath. The state has fought him on basically every issue
in his agenda.


January 25th, 2011
5:29 pm

The Mayors from Chatham County are hoping to hear those words as well. When President Obama came to Savannah Mayor Johnson had a few moments with him alone in the car and the Port was the topic of discussion. I fear that the GAGOP may have ruined any chance of this getting into the budget.


January 25th, 2011
5:29 pm

“We are against ALL earmarks unless it is in my state.” When you have 535 members all saying this, earmarks will always exist.

There is a sickness in GA

January 25th, 2011
6:17 pm

This fetish of banning on Earmarks is idiotic. The money that would have gone to earmarks will still get appropriated, the members of Legislative branch will simply lose an absolute ability to direct those funds. All this ban will do is force Members of Congress to revert back to the old, nontransparent way of directing funding to their district and state; i.e. calling up Executive branch agencies and providing them with “guidance” on which projects they should fund (this is what McCain does to direct money to AZ incidentally). At least under the current system you know who is asking for what. Furthermore, Members are required to affirm that neither they nor their family will benefit from the member directed spending – both reforms instituted by Democrats since 2006 btw. Under the earmark ban these and many other transparency efforts are now dust, so much for reform.


January 25th, 2011
6:26 pm

Ship horns,and magnetic train whistles.


January 25th, 2011
6:26 pm

I really don’t know if spending $700 million in federal money is a good or bad idea; but, whatever happened to the conservative ideas of private investment and market forces. If dredging the river makes sense, why isn’t some company or group of companies ponying up for the cost with the hoped for reward of sharing in the profits? Or, if government should be involved, why isn’t Georgia fronting the money for the sure fired economic benefits?

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jen Barns, Atlanta News Feed. Atlanta News Feed said: AJC: The words Georgia Republicans want to hear from President Obama: ‘Port’ and ‘Savannah’ [...]

Old Hippie

January 25th, 2011
7:02 pm

Here’s what conservative Justice Scalia had to say about earmarks to GOP lawmakers yesterday: Yesterday, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia spoke to a gathering of mostly-Republican lawmakers about separation of powers under the Constitution. During that gathering, Scalia was asked to embrace one of the Tea Party’s pet constitutional theories — but his response did not go well for the far right:

“The question of earmarks came up, whether or not the constitutionality of earmarks would be considered constitutional [sic],” Bachmann told reporters after the seminar. [...]

“It’s up to Congress how you want to appropriate, basically,” Scalia told the members, according to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). “He pointed out historically, like when Jefferson was president, [Congress] said here’s a big pot of money, you decide where it goes, and Jefferson ended up paying up a big hunk of it to the Barbary Pirates.”

“I think the fairest thing to say was he took it for granted they were constitutional,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) — one of a small handful of Democrats in attendance. “I don’t think there was any question. I can’t see how you can make an argument that they’re not Constitutional — Congress is the appropriating body.”

Although Scalia was asked about earmarks, his answer is nothing less than a wholesale repudiation of the right’s tenther vision of the Constitution. After President Obama took office, right-wing lawmakers suddenly began claiming that the Constitution places strict limits on how Congress is allowed to allocate federal funds. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) claims that Social Security, Medicare and federal disaster relief are all unconstitutional. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) believes Pell Grants, federal student loans and all other federal education programs are unconstitutional. And the GOP’s Pledge to America embraces tenther rhetoric — suggesting the entire party could agree with Lee and Coburn.

Yet, as Scalia indicates, tentherism is baseless. Because Article I of the Constitution gives Congress broad authority to “to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” Scalia is exactly right that it is almost entirely “up to Congress” to decide how it wants to appropriate.

Nevertheless, it is a sad commentary on the state of the modern GOP that ultra-conservative Justice Scalia has transformed into a voice of moderation against the even more radical Tea Party.

UPDATE The Wall Street Journal reports that Scalia had even more disappointing news for his Tea Party hosts:
“He said, ‘States rights? Fuhgeddaboudit!’” said freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R., Ill.), a self-described “tea-party guy” who came to Washington “to storm the gates.”

Mr. Walsh mentioned a couple of other surprises, including Justice Scalia’s view that the line-item veto, desired by some conservatives, is unconstitutional.

Moreover, “stare decisis—he’s okay with that,” Mr. Walsh said, using the Latin term for following legal precedent. [...]

Saxby Hisself

January 25th, 2011
7:46 pm

I’m agin earmarks unless dey is for Gawja.

Cause Ima a hypcreetical noncommiepoop.


January 25th, 2011
8:46 pm

How hypocritical…. All these republicans talked about the last two years were spending and socialism. Like previous posters, where is the so-called ‘free market’ and why won’t private businesses pony up the money. Since government is too big and spends too much.

Repubs are against everything unless it benefits them somehow.


January 25th, 2011
8:55 pm

Someone better clue in Rep. Tom Graves, newly on the House Appropriations Committee. He says port, what port? Just cut, cut, cut. Never mind the consequences of lack of investment.


January 25th, 2011
9:24 pm

Yep. Jefferson did it so it must be right. Everyone else does it so it must be right. The previous guy spent money too. Wow. Looks like the mentality of adults is no different than the child. Perhaps that is why so many people stupidly bought more expensive houses than their income allows and maxed out about 10 credit cards. Stupidity in irresponsible spending extends far beyond DC. Forget being responsible and spending only on what is absolutely necessary. And in tight times, try being a better manager of money. But judging by the comments here, responsibility and smart decisions comes up short but childish “everyone else does it” logic rules the day.

The Centrist

January 25th, 2011
9:29 pm

Liberals could easily justify federal funds for the State of Georgia’s Port of Savannah even though it would increase the federal debt. Please watch Johnny and Saxby do the GOP tap dance.


January 25th, 2011
10:41 pm

Didn’t hear it. Heard something about spending on infrastructure. Saxby and Johnny better start kissing Kasim’s butt in hopes he can actually capitalize on his possible connection with Obama and deliver the port.


January 25th, 2011
11:07 pm

Here’s what we do with the port.

We only dredge half of it. The new dredged part will become the new “Lexus Lane.” Go ahead and let ships backup on the non-dredged part. Those that can afford the new “Lexus Lane” will be able to get through faster. A ship will have to pay more during peak time periods. Supply and demand.

Of course it will be privatized. A private business can invest in and operate the new system. They can generate huge profits.

Talk of using public money is absurd. Right Republicans?

still@the bar

January 25th, 2011
11:20 pm

Strap scuba gear on some illegal mexicans and hand them shovels. They will do the work cheaper and nobody has to see them doing the work.


January 26th, 2011
12:26 am

Ironically, The Tea Party Created $1 Billion in Earmarks in 2010
By Jay Anderson on Dec 13th 2010 5:14PM

“No more business as usual in Washington!”

“No more unnecessary government spending!”

These were the rallying cries of dozens of Tea Party-affiliated politicians who won their respective House and Senate races last month. Despite these political assertions, all sorts of Tea Party promises were broken on the government spending front in 2010 by members of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress before the midterm elections:


January 26th, 2011
12:26 am

Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget.

According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available. …

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), for one, attached his name to 69 earmarks in the last fiscal year, for a total of $78,263,000. The 41 earmarks Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) requested were worth $65,395,000. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) wanted $63,400,000 for 39 special projects, and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wanted $93,980,000 set aside for 47 projects.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) takes the prize as the Tea Partier with his name on the most earmarks. Rehberg’s office requested funding for 88 projects, either solely or by co-signing earmarks requests with Sens. Max Baucus (D) and Jon Tester (D), at a cost of $100,514,200. On his own, Rehberg requested 20 earmarks valued at more than $9.6 million.

Not tone deaf

January 26th, 2011
5:08 am

I checked out this blog expecting to see the usual partisan blather. I’m surprised that there may be a new undercurrent of civil discussion.


January 26th, 2011
5:34 am

This sounds like another jobs program. It’s like an iPad — really pretty and really nice to have but is it really necessary? Don’t we already have something adequate? And by we I mean the United States. Are there no adequate deepwater ports in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama — states all closer to the panama canal?


January 26th, 2011
6:29 am

“We must cut government spending!”


January 26th, 2011
7:37 am

If the state wants it, pay for it. States rights, states support yourself. All of the red states get more money from the Feds than they pay in federal taxes. So we are cutting our own throats. But that is what we wanted and that is what we should get.

Double Zero Eight

January 26th, 2011
7:41 am

It will take more than sitting together to solve the problems
that we face. Both parties will have to work together instead
of spouting rhetoric, and displaying symbolic gestures.
I do not believe either party is serious about reducing the
debt, and eliminating earmarks. Politicians are only serious
regarding eliminating earmarks if it is not in “their back yard”.
Our Georgia delegation would be outraged if Fort Benning,
or Warner Robins AFB were considered for closing as part
of base consolidations. Per my recollection, I do not recall
our two senators being outraged at the closing of Fort
McPherson. I am sure they would welcome Mayor Reed’s
relationship with the president to assist in securing the
deepening of the port in Savannah. As a previous blogger
inferred, how will this benefit the federal government?
They could easily just use anorther port that is already
able to handle the bigger ships.

Straight Talk

January 26th, 2011
8:12 am

Georgia’s elected officials [Republican or Democrat] who claim that earmarks should be eliminated…except for the Port of Savannah…are simply saying our country can be only a little bit pregnant. What hypocrisy this is! They didn’t get the message from the 2010 elections. But if they keep this line of thinking up they will when there reelection time come up. ALL budget items [earmarks, entitlement progams, defense, beauracracy, environmental regulations, etc.] must be on the table to: 1. be justified; 2. cut or eliminated if not justified; 3. cut or eliminated if we don’t have the money for it. IT’S TIME THE POLITICIANS GOT REAL. This country is in deep trouble. They have the power to make things a lot worse or start us on the road to something better that is sustainable.

Inman Park

January 26th, 2011
8:18 am

We all love Uncle Sugar as long as he spreads the wealth. As long as it is someone else’s wealth.

the mehlman rings twice

January 26th, 2011
8:25 am

Not if they don’t want to feel the wrath of the Tea Party.

Just jane

January 26th, 2011
11:12 am

Don’t forget the former governor has a vested interest in this project, especially from a trucking business angle.


January 26th, 2011
2:03 pm

Here’s a novel idea, how about less federal tax and more state tax so the states don’t need to depend on ear marks. This would be a more transparent was to tax and spend our money. Giving tax to the federal goverment only to be redistributed back to the states only complicates the process.

Question Man

January 26th, 2011
6:24 pm

Isn’t Georgia’s political leadership (e.g., Deal, Chambliss, Isakson) advocating significant spending and deficit reductions? Does this mean cutting spending (and the deficit) unless the money is heading for Georgia? Does this make any sense?