The Brief: Top Texas News for March 6, 2013

The Big Conversation

Hundreds of protesters on Tuesday attempted to ramp up the pressure on Gov. Rick Perry to expand Medicaid in Texas.

As many as 2,000 Texans, according to some estimates, gathered at the Capitol yesterday to urge Perry and Republicans to accept the expansion, one of the major tenets of federal health care reform.

"Many in this Capitol either don’t understand or, worse, they understand and they don’t care," DeAnn Friedholm, director of health reform at Consumers Union, told the Austin American-Statesman. "We need to be sure lawmakers understand the need and the real solution before us. And we need to make it absolutely unacceptable, morally and politically, for them to do nothing." 

Perry has repeatedly and forcefully said that Texas will not accept the expansion, citing concerns over the sustainability of Medicaid. But several Republican governors' recent reversals on the expansion, as well as pressure from Texas cities and counties, have cast renewed attention on Perry, the last big-state holdout.

 

House Republicans voted on Monday to reject the expansion but said they would reconsider if the Obama administration granted Texas flexibility with the funding. Some Republicans last week expressed interest in a deal the federal government had struck with Arkansas to allow the state to use Medicaid funds to buy private health insurance for the state's poor. 

But the governor's office said it was too early to view the Arkansas plan as an option for Texas.

"The bottom line is Medicaid as a whole is broken, and without fixing the entire system it will continue to consume a substantial and growing part of our budget, crowding out our ability to pay for other critical services," said Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed.

Check out Alana Rocha and Justin Dehn's footage of the rally below:

Culled

•    More illegal immigrants caught, expecting quick release, Border Patrol union says (The Monitor): "Illegal immigrants have started surrendering to local Border Patrol agents after crossing the Rio Grande, convinced they’ll be released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which recently turned hundreds of immigrants loose to save money."

•    Democrats deride Sen. John Cornyn’s tweet on border breach (The Dallas Morning News): "Democrats suggested Tuesday that Sen. John Cornyn fabricated a claim about a friend whose land has been overrun with 300 illegal border crossers each night, as South Texas sheriffs and federal officials said they’re unaware of such a massive breach. Cornyn, the Senate’s deputy Republican leader, maintained that the 'anecdote' he mentioned online two weeks ago — citing a friend he’s declined to identify — 'is consistent with what I’m hearing from a lot of people' and shows the failings of Obama administration border policy."

•    Bill would ban Planned Parenthood from sex ed (Austin American-Statesman): "Legislation to ban Planned Parenthood from providing sex education materials or instruction in public schools drew a spirited response Tuesday at the Capitol. Supporters of the ban — contained in a bill by Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney — accused Planned Parenthood of placing an inappropriate emphasis on sexual freedom, while opponents accused Paxton of attempting to force school districts to abide by unneeded restrictions that would limit local control on instruction."

•    Texas AG's office blasts Watkins over handling of Medicaid fraud case (The Dallas Morning News)"The Texas attorney general’s office has blasted Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins over his handling of a major fraud case against a Dallas dentist, citing the DA’s lack of cooperation and the 'sweetheart deal' he offered the dentist."

Quote of the Day: "None of the funds made available by a division of this Act may be used to transport the President to or from a golf course until public tours of the White House resume." — Text of an amendment filed by U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, in response to sequester cuts

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