The Brief: Top Texas News for Jan. 4, 2013

State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, on the House floor on June 29, 2011.
State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, on the House floor on June 29, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

State Rep. David Simpson may be braving an uphill battle in the speaker's race, but now he's doing so with two more supporters at his side.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that two North Texas Republicans, Rep. Bill Zedler of Arlington and Rep.-elect Matt Krause of Fort Worth, have said they'll vote for Simpson, a conservative Republican from Longview who's challenging incumbent Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.

"I have been working with David Simpson, and I think he'll do a good job," said Zedler, who voted against Straus in 2011. Krause said he had committed to supporting the most conservative candidate in the race, but he added that he had "nothing bad to say" about the speaker. "My vote is more pro-David Simpson — not anti-Joe Straus," Krause said.

Straus, who became speaker in 2009, is still widely expected to keep his job, and has so far dismissed much of the drama surrounding the race. After all, Krause and Zedler only bring the number of declared Simpson supporters to three, out of a 150-member House.

But Simpson's new support highlights the pockets of conservative unrest Straus must contend with, and sheds some light on which other lawmakers may side with Simpson on or before Tuesday, when the election will be held.

Rep.-elect Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, told the Star-Telegram that she hadn't made a final decision but signaled an unwillingness to support Straus.

"My constituents have not been very supportive of Speaker Straus," Klick said. "They feel that things could be run in a more transparent way."

Culled:

  • Hours after he was sworn in to Congress, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Thursday faced a grilling of sorts from CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who challenged the new senator for calling the recent fiscal cliff bill a "lousy deal" struck because Democrats wanted to raise taxes on Americans. "Remember, the president was re-elected," Blitzer said. "Harry Reid is the majority leader. You're in minority in the United States Senate. You've got to deal with reality. You can't just be — you can't just be overly idealistic." Cruz defended his opposition to the deal, saying, "The same voters that re-elected the president re-elected a Republican majority in the House." 
  • During the roll-call vote for House speaker on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, made headlines for nominating former Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican who lost his seat in November. Gohmert, however, wasn't the only Texas Republican longing for an alternative to John Boehner, who easily kept his job: Freshman Rep. Steve Stockman of Friendswood voted "present," saying Boehner had "signed our country onto a fiscal suicide pact" by supporting the recent fiscal cliff deal.
  • The state Department of Transportation on Thursday reversed Houston officials' plans to suspend the display of directions to gun shows on road signs. State officials' decision to step in came shortly after the Houston Chronicle reported that the transportation agency's Houston office had decided to no longer display such directions in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting. "We use these dynamic message boards to help us direct traffic when there's an accident and at large events to keep the public safe," TxDOT spokeswoman Veronica Beyer said in a statement. "We will continue to use these message boards, like we did at this event and at similar events, to direct traffic and protect the public at any event meeting our established criteria."

"Now the nation — and, I might add, the hemisphere — understands the Hispanic community must be courted." — Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday at a reception for new Hispanic members of Congress

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