House Speaker David Ralston, in a late Thursday interview, said he would not stop committee-level debate of a bill to require President Barack Obama to provide proof of his American birth in order to get on the ballot next year.
But Ralston, who has developed a strong relationship with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, suggested that HB 401 stood little chance of making it to the floor for passage, despite carrying the signatures of 93 Republican lawmakers.
“I’m not promoting the bill or squelching discussion. We’ll have a discussion, and then we’ll see what happens,” Ralston said. “First of all, I believe President Obama is the duly elected president of the United States. I’ve never followed the ‘birther’ school of thought.”
The measure was introduced Monday, and has its first hearing today in a House subcommittee. The bill could require all candidates for president to provide certified copies of their “first original long-form birth certificate.”
Documentation as provided by the state of Hawaii, which has insisted time and time again that Obama was born there, “would not suffice,” said state Rep. Mark Hatfield, R-Waycross, the bill’s author.
The bill comes as the Georgia Ports Authority continues to push the White House for hundreds of millions in federal dollars to dredge the Port of Savannah – the state’s most important infrastructure project. The bill also flies in the face of an alliance that the House speaker has built with the mayor of Atlanta on another crucial issue – transportation funding.
Moreover, passage of the HOPE scholarship bill on Tuesday was accomplished with the cooperation of House Democratic Leader Stacy Abrams of Atlanta, who has her own ties to Obama.
All that said, the signatures of 93 Republicans on the bill – in a 180-member House – requires Ralston to perform a high-wire act on this issue.
“I am elected by a large and diverse caucus. And the issues that matter to them span a considerable range,” Ralston said. “What I’ve tried to be about, is allowing the committee process to have discussions about issues that are important to members.”
Another measure being heard today, the speaker noted, was a proposed constitutional amendment to permit horse-racing in Georgia.
Asked whether HB 401 could hurt the state’s effort to obtain federal funding for its all-important port, Ralston said:
”I would hope that having the discussion would not. I would hope that there would be respect for a diversity of opinion and a free exchange of ideas. I would hope that everybody in this process is big enough to understand that in the legislative process, a big part of what this is about is having ideas vetted and debated.
“I’m kind of proud of the relationships we have. Mayor Reed and I have formed a kind of alliance that I think is healthy for the entire state. I think we share some goals that I think are good for Georgia – such as the port and its future.
“I think all of those are much larger than this discussion.”
In case you missed it, go back and read the emphasis Ralston placed on the word “discussion.”
Asked whether his relationship with Reed would survive a floor vote on a bill that questions the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency, Ralston said this:
”I think our alliance is very strong. And I would not do anything to damage that alliance.”
So no House floor vote? Replied Ralston:
”I’m saying that we’ve got a lot of big issues that need to come to the floor. That’s different than saying that debating this bill in subcommittee or at the committee level – that’s two different things.
“At some point we’re going to have to sit down and prioritize how we’re going to spend our energy. The priorities are the budget, the reservoir bill, making sure the HOPE scholarship bill gets all the way through the process. We’ve got the tax reform council.”
At the request of many of you’ve I’ve uploaded a scan of the many signatures on HB 401. Stopping this bill may be harder than it sounds. Originally, we wrote here that, among the 22 Republicans who have not signed onto the bill was John Meadows, chairman of the House Rules Committee, which determines which bills move – and don’t move.
But Hatfield pointed us to Meadows’ signature. “Top of the second row, back page.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider