The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 28, 2013

The Big Conversation

The release of hundreds of immigrant detainees nationwide has further inflamed tensions in Texas over looming federal budget cuts.

After the Obama administration announced that the federal government had released "several hundred" immigrants from detention centers this week due to the impending cuts, known as the sequester, Texas Republicans on Wednesday accused the White House of using scare tactics to gain leverage in the budget negotiations. 

"The administration has known their sequester was coming for more than a year and a half, so it's implausible that doing this just three days before the deadline is anything other than the next step in the president's manufactured crisis," said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Meanwhile, the White House on Wednesday denied involvement in the plan, saying the decision was made by "career officials" at Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, also described the released detainees as "low risk" and "noncriminal."

 

But Republicans weren't forgiving.

"Spending cuts are no excuse for releasing thousands of criminals and illegal immigrants into our communities," said U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio. "The administration is either incompetent and unable to prioritize spending, or reckless. Neither is acceptable."

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, the Austin Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, has sent a letter to ICE demanding more answers about the release.

As for the sequester itself, which will take effect Friday unless Congress reaches an agreement on the budget, The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas' economy will likely take a hard, but not disastrous, hit.

Culled

•    Argument recap: Voting law in peril — maybe (SCOTUSblog): "The argument Wednesday in one of the most important cases of the Court’s current Term — a hearing that ran seventeen minutes longer than the allotted hour — left no doubt that four of the Justices (and maybe Kennedy with them) are just as troubled as they were four years ago when they last lambasted the selective enforcement approach mandated by history’s most successful civil rights law. Equally, there was no doubt that four Justices — including the two newest members — were prepared to let Congress have its way with the twenty-five-year extension of the law."

•    Lawmakers Slam Disclosure Bill — and Rebuke Freshman Who Filed It (The Texas Tribune): "Members of a powerful legislative committee on Wednesday rebuked freshman state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, over a transparency bill he filed that would require legislators to disclose government contracts with businesses in which they or their family own at least a 50 percent stake."

•    Term limits, resign-to-run proposals considered in House committee (The Dallas Morning News): "Gov. Rick Perry’s longevity in office and his presidential run would have been complicated by proposed constitutional amendments considered by a House committee Wednesday. The first would impose a 12-year term limit on the governor and all statewide officeholders and legislators. … The second proposal would force all legislators and statewide officeholders to resign their posts if they choose to run for another office with more than 13 months left in their term. Both proposals were left pending in committee with their author, Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, pledging to work with committee members to tailor them to win approval."

•    Advocates Concerned by Shipment of Horse Meat Through U.S. Ports (The New York Times): "As concerns over horse meat infiltrating products labeled ground beef grows among American consumers, an advocacy group released shipping documents showing that horse meat does pass through at least one United States port on its way from slaughterhouses in Mexico to destinations in Europe. The Equine Welfare Alliance unearthed bills of lading showing that since last August, more than 30 million pounds of fresh and frozen horse meat came into the Port of Houston on its way to distributors in Belgium, the Netherlands and Russia."

•    Karl Rove says GOP needs to vet primary candidates to weed out losers (The Dallas Morning News): "Political strategist Karl Rove on Wednesday defended his decision to get involved in Republican primaries, saying a new vetting and research group would prevent 'poor candidates' from giving rival Democrats an edge in critical contests. … Speaking at a National Center for Policy Analysis luncheon in Dallas, Rove said his new project aims to ensure that conservative candidates 'pass the basic trust test that you’re worthy to be in office.' He said the test would also be given to GOP incumbents. 'We’ve given away at least five seats in the last two election cycles, maybe more, because of poor candidates,' Rove said."

Quote of the Day: "I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement." — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, describing the Voting Rights Act during oral arguments on Wednesday in the case challenging one of the law's key provisions

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