The Brief: Texas Political News for Sept. 23, 2013

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference on March 16, 2013.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference on March 16, 2013.

The Big Conversation

Despite lacking a clear path forward on his quest to defund Obamacare, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz isn't backing down.

Cruz, Texas' junior U.S. senator, said on Sunday that he would push ahead with his long-shot bid to eliminate funding for the president's health care law. 

Cruz was thrust into the middle of bitter Republican infighting over the issue last week after the House passed a government spending bill that eliminated funding for Obamacare. Some House Republicans accused him of surrendering after he said the bill stood no chance of passing the Senate.

But Cruz has since reversed course, encouraging Senate Republicans to back his defunding effort, which risks a government shutdown.

Specifically, Cruz is pushing Republicans to vote against taking up the House bill. If Majority Leader Harry Reid wins the 60 votes needed to open debate on the measure, he could later remove the Obamacare provision with the support of just 50 other senators before sending it back to the House, according to Politico.

"Any vote for cloture, any vote to allow Harry Reid to add funding to Obamacare with just a 51-vote threshold … is a vote for Obamacare," Cruz said on Fox News Sunday.

Cruz's strategy has proven unpopular with many Senate Republicans, including John McCain of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee. And it remains unclear whether Cruz will be able to sway any top Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"The question is whether the Senate is under Cruz control. I hope they’re not," Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Politico. "I’ve appealed to some of the more sensible Republicans in their caucus that they have to step up. I don’t hear it from McConnell, I don’t hear it from Cornyn. We’ll just have to hear it from some members of their caucus if we can avoid this national disaster."

Culled

•    Sarah Palin: GOP 'Gutless' for Not Standing Against Obamacare (Time): "In commentary published on Saturday by the conservative website Breitbart.com, former Alaska governor and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin lets loose against Republicans who she sees as too soft in the fight against President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The political class in Washington, she writes, is 'nothing if not gutless and rudderless.' She also suggests the effects of a government shutdown would not be too harmful if the fight over Obamacare funding leads to that."

•    Wendy Davis vs. Greg Abbott in Texas: 'Bruising' (Politico): "The Texas governor’s race is shaping up to be a bloody and expensive contest between a high-profile Democrat who fires up the party and a well-funded, well-established Republican. Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis last week sent the clearest signal yet that she’s eyeing a gubernatorial run, telling supporters in an email blast that she will announce her next steps in early October. Attorney General Greg Abbott is the presumptive GOP nominee and, by all accounts, the clear front-runner in the race to succeed Republican Gov. Rick Perry. 'I expect it to be a bruising campaign,' said Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri. 'There’s a lot of material on Wendy Davis. I expect it to be within the bounds of appropriate political discussions. She’s going to have a lot of questions to answer.'"

•    Wendy Davis begins the long hello (The Associated Press): "Call it the long hello. Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis has announced that she will make clear her future plans on Oct. 3. In the meantime, she's collecting emails, networking with Democratic supporters and will likely send out a number of email blasts over the next 10 days, releasing tidbits of news designed to build momentum before her formal debut as a candidate for Texas governor. Despite the attempt to build suspense, the roar of the political machine behind her betrays that she's already started a campaign that could have national implications, whether she wins or loses in 2014."

•    New Immigration Bill Filed; Texas Lawmakers Leave Talks (The Texas Tribune): "On the same day that the co-chairmen of the U.S. Congressional Border Caucus introduced a bill to help keep federal immigration reform efforts alive, two Texas congressmen left a bipartisan group of House members that had been working on its own legislation."

Quote to Note: "This is about running for president." — U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., on Ted Cruz's push to defund Obamacare

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