The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 22, 2013

U.S. Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas, at the state Republican convention on June 8, 2012.
U.S. Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas, at the state Republican convention on June 8, 2012.

The Big Conversation

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn's push to derail the confirmation of Chuck Hagel may have already fizzled.

Cornyn on Thursday sent a letter to the White House urging the president to withdraw Hagel's nomination as U.S. defense secretary. Fourteen other senators, including Cornyn's Texas colleague, Ted Cruz, signed on.

"Over the last half-century, no secretary of defense has been confirmed and taken office with more than three senators voting against him," the letter said. "The occupant of this critical office should be someone whose candidacy is neither controversial or divisive."

Cornyn and Cruz, who last month cast two of the three votes against Sen. John Kerry's confirmation as secretary of state, came out early against Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska whom Cornyn and other Republicans have attacked over his stances on Iran and Israel. Cruz last week suggested that Hagel may have received money from "extreme or radical groups."

 

Republicans, however, won't likely be able to block Hagel's confirmation, as they did with an initial filibuster last week. As The Associated Press reports, Hagel on Thursday secured the last GOP vote he needed to avoid another filibuster, and Democrats — all 55 of whom are expected to vote for Hagel — are planning an up-or-down vote before Thursday. 

Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has led the Republican opposition to Hagel, on Sunday called him "the most unimpressive that I've ever seen" but said the confirmation should proceed. McCain did not sign Cornyn's letter.

Capitol Notes
Compiled from Tribune reports

•    House Passes Bill to Address $4.5 Billion Medicaid IOU: "With little debate on Thursday, House lawmakers passed House Bill 10, an emergency supplemental appropriations bill that needs to get to Gov. Rick Perry's desk by next month to avoid bills owed to medical workers going unpaid."

•    Bill Targets Domestic Partnerships in School District's Health Plan: "Pflugerville ISD made history last year when the board of trustees approved health benefits for domestic partners of its employees. In response, Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, has filed a bill to cut the district's health care funding."

•    Self-Driving Car is Miles Ahead of Texas Laws: "A Google self-driving car drove itself around Austin and across Texas over the last week. State laws don't yet appear to address the futuristic technology."

Culled
Texas news from across the state and around the web

•    Report: Half of Texas construction workers undocumented (Austin American-Statesman): "Half of the construction workers in Texas are undocumented, according to a new report by an Austin immigrant rights group and University of Texas researchers that surveyed nearly 1,200 workers throughout the state."

 

•    DPS restricts policy on firing from the air (San Antonio Express-News): "State troopers no longer will shoot from helicopters at fleeing suspects, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety said Thursday."

•    Group 'sorry' Bush wants out of gay-marriage ads (The Associated Press): "A pro-gay marriage group will replace ads that include former first lady Laura Bush speaking on the topic with a new ad this weekend after Bush said she did not want to be part of its campaign."

•    'Due to new information,' NFL quarterback Tim Tebow cancels First Baptist of Dallas appearance; church 'saddened' by influence of 'pressure' (The Dallas Morning News): "After his season fizzled with the New York Jets, quarterback Tim Tebow’s planned trip to speak at storied First Baptist Church of Dallas seemed like an easy victory for the devout football star. But on Thursday, Tebow canceled the speech, apparently because of controversial statements that the church's pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, has made about Mormonism, Catholicism and other faiths as well as homosexuality."

•    Prisoners collecting millions in unemployment while behind bars (KHOU News): "Unemployment benefits are supposed to be life lines to out-of-work Texans. But the KHOU 11 News I-Team uncovered millions of dollars in unemployment payments are flowing into jails and prisons across Texas."

Quote of the Day: "We’ve got the peace pipe. Now all we have to do is smoke it." — State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, before he withdrew a school finance amendment during debate over an emergency supplemental bill Thursday

Must-Read

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