The Brief: Texas Political News for Sept. 9, 2013

The Big Conversation

Among Texans in Congress, opposition to military action in Syria may be hardening.

In the days since the Obama administration began pressing Congress to approve a strike against Syria in response to chemical weapons attacks there, most members of Texas' congressional delegation have remained undecided about the use of force.

But now, according to a New York Times count, about a third of the state's congressional delegation has come out against the strike. Of the other Texans who have publicly addressed the issue, only two have expressed clear support, while 14 are still undecided. The numbers mirror the Times' national whip count, which shows most of the House still undecided but 154 members against and only 39 in support. 

In Texas, the most vocal opposition to military action has come from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who last week said the U.S. military shouldn't be serving as "al-Qaida's air force." On Sunday, the same day White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough appeared on several talk shows to make the administration's case, Cruz said launching a military strike would be a "mistake."

 

"One, because I think the administration is proceeding with the wrong objective, and two, because they have no viable plan for success," Cruz said on This Week, adding, "I don’t think that’s the job of our military to be defending amorphous international norms."

On the same program, McDonough said of Cruz's "air force" remark: "I am outraged for somebody to suggest that our people would be serving as allies to al-Qaida."

Another Texas Republican, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, said on Meet the Press that he wouldn't support military action because it would amount to "an act of war."

"Little wars start big wars, and we have to remember that," McCaul said.

Congress returns today from its summer recess. Obama will deliver a prime-time address on Tuesday night to press Congress to authorize military action.

Culled

•    Judges: 2014 Primaries Can Use Lege-Approved Maps (The Texas Tribune): "The state’s 2014 primaries will be held using the congressional and legislative maps approved by lawmakers this summer, a federal panel of judges ruled Friday. The San Antonio-based judges said they didn't have time to finally settle the legal disputes over the state’s redistricting maps before those elections, which are scheduled for March, but told the state to proceed with those maps until the lawsuits have played out."

•    Primary elections set for March 4 help incumbents (The Associated Press): "Incumbent politicians can breathe a little easier now that three federal judges have declared they won't redraw the state's political maps or delay the 2014 primary elections. The nightmare of new districts and a prolonged primary campaign haunted many Republican lawmakers fearful they might lose their conservative majorities or face a tea party challenger. The San Antonio court's order on Friday afternoon allows them to move forward with certainty about which voters they'll need to mobilize on March 4. The court handed Democrats a setback by not drawing new maps for 2014. The court has agreed to consider claims by Democrats, minorities and civil rights groups that the current maps discriminate against minorities, but they left it in place for now."

•    Few Texas voter-fraud cases would have been prevented by photo ID law, review shows (The Dallas Morning News): "Attorney General Greg Abbott champions a requirement for voters to show photo identification to prevent ballot fraud. But such a rule would have deterred just a few of the cases his office has prosecuted in the last eight years. Abbott, who’s making his defense of the state’s voter ID law a centerpiece of his campaign for governor, has pursued 66 people on charges of voting irregularities since 2004. Only four cases involved someone illegally casting a ballot at a polling place where a picture ID would have prevented it."

•    Morales Wants State to Examine Sealed Tobacco Records (The Texas Tribune): "Former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales wants the state to reopen the tobacco litigation that ended his public career and landed him in federal prison, saying the state might be entitled to some of the billions of dollars that were awarded to outside attorneys in that case."

Quote to Note: "There are commitments being made to Texas to turn that around, but it hasn’t really except in the smallest amount of instances. In other words, it’s still an ATM machine." — Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa to National Journal on his party's efforts to turn the state blue

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