The Brief: Texas Political News for Aug. 13, 2013

The Big Conversation:

With two Texans playing key roles, infighting within the Republican party on how to defeat Obamacare continues. 

In the latest round, former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove took the battle to the airwaves yesterday on Fox News Commentator Sean Hannity’s radio show.

He took on U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who along with Texas’ own U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, is among congressional conservatives who are pledging to oppose any bill that includes funding for Obamacare.

“If you fund this thing, you own it,” Lee said. 

As the Tribune’s Becca Aaronson reported, Cruz is currently urging grassroots activists to push for explicit language in a key budget provision — which must pass this fall to avert the shutdown of programs and agencies like the Department of Defense and federal law enforcement — prohibiting any spending to implement the new healthcare law.

Although the plan has the support of Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have yet to sign on.

Rove is among those in the GOP who believe the tactic will hurt the party’s chances at the ballot box in the midterm elections.

"This just assumes that the Democrats are going to be scared of a shutdown. They aren't. They want it," Rove said. "This is the one strategy, the one tactic that might be able to guarantee that the Democrats pick up seats in the Congress in 2014.”

Greg Abbott, the Republican frontrunner in the race to replace Gov. Rick Perry, said while he’ll support anything that will “get rid of Obamacare,” has refused to give his views about shutting down the government, saying last week he he did not know "the mechanics of how all that works."

Meanwhile, one of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions intended to encourage more doctors to take on Medicaid patients, has been postponed in Texas and other states, leaving physicians who took on more patients in anticipation of the change in the lurch.

The delay comes because the federal government has not yet approved theirs strategies for boosting payments, according to the Tribune’s Shefali Luthra. The change in federal law, which was set to take effect in January, will allow Medicaid payments reimbursing doctors for the care of the disabled and the very poor to rise to the same level as those for Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly.

Though the state intends to retroactively pay primary care doctors for Medicaid billings made since January when it receive federal approval for its managed care plan, it's still unclear when that will occur. 

Culled:

Some educators cheer state law's new focus on career education, but shift relies on districts: “Career and technology educators are hailing a recently passed Texas education law that puts a priority on pathways to professions that don’t involve going to college. Now school districts are tasked with developing the teacher skill sets and courses to make skilled certification far more attainable through public education.”

Texas and the Voting Rights Act: Bigotry For the Right Reasons: “Rarely does one see political gamesmanship admitted so openly, and I have to admit it's kind of refreshing to hear a politician decline to even pay lip-service to fairness. Greg Abbott seems to think that the VRA allows him to abrogate minority voting rights as long as he does so for partisan rather than overtly, provably racial reasons.”

Challengers emerge for Texas freshmen in U.S. House races: “Two Texas freshmen, Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine and Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, are the latest Texans to draw challenges for the 2014 elections.”

Expect Campaign Advertisements Earlier Than Ever: “Without a presidential race dominating the airwaves, House and Senate races will be on the receiving end of an unprecedented deluge of political spending this midterm cycle. And with only a few dozen competitive House districts to focus their spend, many political operatives predict the television ad wars will start earlier than ever.”

Pre-K advocacy group to turn in 150,000 signatures: “A local nonprofit will roll a dolly of boxes into Harris County offices Tuesday with more than 150,000 signatures supporting a proposal to ask voters for a new 1-penny tax to fund early education. What happens next, and whether the proposal will appear on the ballot at all, is not clear.”

Quote to Note: “I’ll give you a real frank answer about that: If we were to impeach the president tomorrow, you could probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it.” — U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, at a recent town hall meeting in Luling.

Must Read:

Jeb Bush’s Education Legacy Loses Luster, Politico

Cruz finds traction in early Iowa forays, Houston Chronicle

A Texas Tragedy: Ample Oil, No Water, Mother Jones

Karl Rove, Mike Lee spar on Obamacare, Politico

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