The Brief: Texas Political News for Oct. 1, 2013

The Big Conversation

The government shutdown has arrived, but a major provision of Obamacare is moving forward.

On Monday, lawmakers in Washington failed to break a stalemate over a government funding bill that House Republicans, pressed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, have refused to support unless the health care law is defunded or delayed.

About 800,000 federal workers now face furloughs, and according to The New York Times, more than 1 million others may have to work without pay.

The shutdown — the first since the Clinton administration — may not affect most Texans immediately, but as the Tribune's Elena Schneider reports, 140,000 federal employees in the state may go without pay, depending on how long the shutdown lasts. 

Though the military will continue to be paid and Social Security and Medicare benefits won't be interrupted, some agencies will feel the shutdown's effects right away. NASA, which is headquartered in Houston, and the Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, will halt most of their operations. The Department of Energy will temporarily lose two-thirds of its staff. And national parks, zoos and Smithsonian museums will be closed.

The fate of other services, like the Women, Infants and Children Program, depends on how long the government remains closed.

Meanwhile, despite the shutdown, one of the main provisions of Obamacare — insurance exchanges where Americans will be able to shop for health care coverage — went live around midnight. In Texas and several other states that refused to set up their own marketplaces, the exchanges, which will prove crucial to the success of the president's health care law, will be run by the federal government.

The exchanges have also been thrust into the center of the latest political debate over Obamacare in Texas. On Monday, as the Tribune's Becca Aaronson reported, Democratic lawmakers accused Gov. Rick Perry of trying to block the implementation of Obamacare by seeking strict new rules on the trained workers who will help Texans find coverage in the new marketplace.

Culled

•    Cruz pledges salary to charity if government shuts down (The Associated Press): "Sen. Ted Cruz is pledging to donate his salary to charity during any federal government shutdown. Cruz announced his pledge in a statement Monday evening. On Friday, Cruz had told an Austin conference that he had not planned to forgo his paycheck as a U.S. senator if the federal government shut down."

•    State Gets Waiver From No Child Left Behind (The Texas Tribune): "After nearly a year of negotiations, the state has finally secured a waiver from No Child Left Behind, the Texas Education Agency announced Monday. With the reprieve, only the lowest-performing 15 percent of schools will be subject to a series of federally prescribed interventions, instead of what would have been nearly all of the state's school districts next year because of a failure to meet the law's requirement that 100 percent of their students pass reading and math exams by 2014. Struggling school districts will also no longer be required to set aside 20 percent of their funding for remedial tutoring services."

•    Immigrant protesters seek entry into U.S. (San Antonio Express-News): "Wearing their graduation caps and gowns, 30 young immigrant activists tried to enter the United States on Monday at an international bridge [in Laredo], an act of protest against policies they say keep them from the country they consider home. The activists, calling themselves DREAMers in reference to failed legislation that would have provided legal status for some young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, had all been deported or had voluntarily returned to their home countries, organizers said."

•    Sources: Dodds to announce retirement Tuesday (Austin American-Statesman): "University of Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, who over the past 32 years has built the Longhorns into one of the nation’s wealthiest and most prestigious college athletic programs, will announce Tuesday that he will step down next August, three well-connected sources told the American-Statesman on Monday."

Quote to Note: "He was the one who said if the House voted to defund, that the Democrats would fold and the president would fold. So if the government shuts down, it’s obviously Ted Cruz’s fault." — U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., to The Dallas Morning News

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