The Brief: Texas Political News for Oct. 25, 2013

State Sen. Wendy Davis announces her candidacy for governor on Oct. 3, 2013, in Haltom City.
State Sen. Wendy Davis announces her candidacy for governor on Oct. 3, 2013, in Haltom City.

The Big Conversation

The problem-plagued federal health insurance marketplace drew fire on Thursday from across the political spectrum and in multiple venues.

Providing some Texas-flavored friendly fire was Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis, who said in an interview with The Dallas Morning NewsGromer Jeffers Jr. that the problems with the exchange’s website were “inexcusable.”

“They need to fix it,” she told Jeffers in an interview in Washington, D.C., where she is attending meetings and a fundraiser this week. “Quickly.”

Her comments came against the backdrop of a congressional hearing where contractors working on the site told lawmakers that they did not have much time to test the exchange before the site went live on Oct. 1.

“While individual components of the system were tested earlier, they said, the government did not conduct ‘end-to-end testing’ of the whole system from start to finish until late September,” reports The New York TimesRobert Pear.

The accounts of the Thursday hearing pointed toward two different variations of the blame game. Pear highlighted how the partisan divide played out in the hearing. Republicans were intent on making the glitch-filled exchange emblematic of what they see as an unworkable health care law. Democrats acknowledged problems with the website but said the underlying law was “fundamentally sound.”

Coverage in The Washington Post’s Wonkblog highlighted the contractors’ insistence that they handled their portion of the project well and that the blame properly lay elsewhere — with the federal government.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services "had the ultimate decision to go live or not go live," CGI Federal Vice President Cheryl Campbell testified near the start of the hearing, according to the Post. "At CGI we were not in position to make that decision. We were there to support the client. It's not our position to tell clients whether to go live or not go live."

The question of how to iron out the difficulties in the new insurance marketplace is of more than passing interest to Texans. That’s because the Republican leadership here opted not to set up a state-run exchange, instead offloading that duty to the federal government.

Culled

•    Amid political storm, Sebelius heads to Texas to promote health care law (Austin American-Statesman): "Sebelius will visit CommUnityCare in East Austin on Friday morning to meet with some people who are enrolling in the health insurance marketplace and stand to benefit from the Affordable Care Act and to hear about education efforts to draw in other Austinites. ... Later Friday, Sebelius will attend a similar event in San Antonio, joined by Mayor Julian Castro and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff."

•    Health care law’s commercial allies in Texas frustrated by balky rollout (The Dallas Morning News): "Texas brokers, physicians and health insurers are exasperated with the federal government’s online marketplace, but they say the site must be fixed because the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. Many people shopping for themselves or for small companies have called insurance brokers for help in accessing HealthCare.gov. Brokers were eager to oblige but soon found themselves stymied."

•    Judge's ruling on abortion law will leave providers in legal limbo (Houston Chronicle): "The federal judge deciding whether Texas can legally enforce strict new limits on abortion has vowed to render a judgment by Monday, but no matter how he rules the picture's likely to remain blurry. On the one hand, local prosecutors in ten of Texas' biggest counties, including Harris and Bexar, have agreed not to enforce the controversial law throughout any appeal process, extending all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But on the other, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Health Services said Thursday the agency plans on Tuesday to start implementing the law if the judge rules it can go forward, thus ignoring any appeal."

•    Ex-House GOP leader Tom Delay says God is calling him to lead a constitutional revival (The Dallas Morning News): "Former Texas congressman Tom DeLay called on members of the Texas Patriot Tea Party on Tuesday night to join him in a revolution for the Constitution, to 'shut down' every part of federal government that is not specifically based on the Constitution. 'It’s time for a constitutional renewal, a constitutional revival,' DeLay said in Burleson, adding that this revival is inherently linked to a 'spiritual awakening' he sees happening across the country. He said conservatives have allowed 'the left to intimidate us, cut off our heads, put us in prison.'"

•    Davis, Abbott Express Support for Proposition 6 (The Texas Tribune): "Gubernatorial candidates Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis are throwing their support behind the constitutional amendment that would fund projects designed to help the state meet its growing need for water."

•    N.C. GOP official resigns after interview (Politico): "Conservative activist Don Yelton has stepped down from his position as Republican precinct chairman of Buncombe County, N.C., following controversial comments that aired Wednesday on the Daily Show. The remarks were made during an interview with Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi, during which Mandvi and Yelton discussed efforts to pass new voter identification requirements into in North Carolina, a requirement that many critics argue will subdue voter turnout in the state."

Quote to Note: Conservatives have allowed “the left to intimidate us, cut off our heads, put us in prison. ... It’s time for a revolution,” former U.S. House Majority Tom DeLay told a Tea Party meeting in Burleson this week. “I am not advocating for revolution in the streets. But if that’s what it takes … ”

Must-Read

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