The Savannah harbor may not be deepening, but the mystery of the federal government’s hardheadedness over the issue is.
It’s not just that The White House isn’t being forthcoming with the promised funding. Now they say the state of Georgia can’t even proceed with the project by using its own money. The feds say there’s now an administrative block that won’t be dislodged until Congress passes the Water Resources Development Bill.
Georgia officials aren’t buying it. The entire Georgia congressional delegation has signed a letter to the Office of Management and Budget that asks that the state be allowed to start the construction phase of deepening project.
Both Gov. Deal and Congressman Jack Kingston indicate that the president has in fact signed off on the project, by the act of his having signed the federal spending bill in January. That bill specifically authorizes money to accelerate the deepening project. So, as Deal put it, this is all a matter of interpretation.
Or is it? Georgia officials seem determined to get the project underway, which they hope would put more pressure on the feds to give their blessing.
From the inside this looks like almost a do-or-die battle for our state. After all, this is what congressmen are supposed to do: steer federal dollars into big, visible economic projects back home. So economically, this is indeed big.
From outside the political arena – from the public’s perspective – the whole thing is hardly a show-stopper. Polling indicates that the public’s attention is not on the port fight. So as for election-year politics, it would appear that there will be political ‘losers’ – only if congressmen and the governor set it up to be one by too much hand-wringing.
Look for little debate in the Republican primaries over this. Why? Because there’s no disagreement among Georgia officials that the port deepening is needed and that any blame for it not happening belongs at the feet of the Obama administration, and not with any incumbent GOP lawmaker.
As for presumed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jason Carter and presumed Democratic senatorial nominee Michelle Nunn, well, the president has left them to look like jilted brides left at the altar.