The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 15, 2013

Ted Cruz greets a delegate outside the state Republican convention on June 7, 2012.
Ted Cruz greets a delegate outside the state Republican convention on June 7, 2012.

The Big Conversation

Weeks after Ted Cruz began building a reputation as the U.S. Senate's brashest new member, his colleagues are beginning to sound off.

Less than two months into his first term as Texas' junior U.S. senator, Cruz has become a nearly permanent fixture in headlines for combative political moves like casting one of three votes against Sen. John Kerry's confirmation as secretary of state, bringing a pistol grip to a hearing on gun violence and battling with a powerful Democratic senator, Chuck Schumer of New York, on Sunday morning TV.

This week, however, Cruz threw one of his hardest jabs yet, suggesting that U.S. Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel may have received money from "extreme or radical groups" — an insinuation that earned Cruz a public scolding from a Democratic colleague.

As Politico reports, Cruz's style has proved divisive, even among his fellow Senate Republicans.

"I think he’s got unlimited potential," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "But the one thing I will say to any new senator — you’re going to be respected if you can throw a punch, but you also have to prove you can do a deal."

Another GOP senator, who asked not to be identified, told Politico: "It’s becoming a trend when you’re a new arrival. They don’t get to know the Senate or the other senators; they just start talking. And that takes away from [Cruz’s] ability to be an influential legislator."

He's "Jim DeMint without the charm," another (anonymous) Republican senator told The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus.

Despite the veiled criticism, Cruz says he's doing what he was elected to do. "I made promises to the people of Texas that I would come to Washington to shake up the status quo," he wrote in an email to Politico, "to fight for conservative principles and to lead a concerted and meaningful effort to end the unsustainable spending, deficits and debt that have been propagated, unfortunately, by members of both parties."

Capitol Notes
Compiled from Tribune reports

•    House Might Restore Some Education Budget Cuts: "A small bipartisan group of House lawmakers is working on a plan to restore some of the money cut from public education in the 2011 legislative session to the state’s current two-year budget."

•    Gay Rights Bill Filed on Valentine’s Day: "State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, filed a bill Thursday to permit same-sex couples to marry, calling it a 'Valentine's Day gift to all Texans.'"

•    Clean Energy Faces Hurdles in Legislature: "As the session progresses, renewable energy advocates are bracing to defend critical policies that have helped Texas become the leading wind-power state. The ascendancy of the Tea Party, an abundance of cheap natural gas and tighter budgets have reduced the sway of the wind industry. Solar power advocates anticipate limited gains at best."

Culled
Texas news from across the state and around the web

•    Texas' GOP not buying amnesty (San Antonio Express-News): "The nation's growing Hispanic voter base may be driving the immigration debate in Washington. But in GOP-held Texas congressional districts, it hardly has made a mark. While some top Republican leaders have endorsed a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented residents, the loudest GOP voices to emerge against the proposal in recent weeks have come from Texas congressmen who hail from districts with large Hispanic constituencies."

•    UT System Approves Four-Year Tuition Guarantee Plan (The Texas Tribune): "The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Thursday approved a measure that would require its nine campuses to offer four-year guaranteed tuition plans as an option to students."

•    Dallas DA Watkins defies order to appear in court during misconduct hearing (WFAA-TV): "Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins defied a judge's order and failed to show up at a hearing in which he would have had to answer questions under oath about whether he was influenced to bring an indictment to benefit a wealthy friend."

•    Another record falls in the Texas wind (Houston Chronicle): "A cold front that blew through Texas late last week helped push Texas wind power generation to a record, the state’s main grid operator reported Wednesday. Wind turbines in the state generated 9,481 megawatts of power at 7:08 p.m. Saturday, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, surpassing the previous record of 8,667 megawatts on Jan. 29."

Quote of the Day: "In my opinion, Governor Perry is not running for governor, and General Abbott is. I don’t think Governor Perry, if he’s planning on running for president again, needs to be governor." — Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, speaking at a TribLive event on Thursday

Must-Read

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.