The Brief: Texas Political News for Dec. 3, 2013

The Big Conversation

U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Amarillo, could be a lot closer to gaining the chairmanship of one of Congress' most powerful committees — House Armed Services.

A report from Politico has current Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon deciding whether to retire at the end of his term. If he does, the California Republican expects Thornberry to succeed him.

“The chairman has been impressed with Mr. Thornberry — he finds him to be a thoughtful and insightful leader,” McKeon’s chief of staff, Alan Tennille, told Politico. “For those reasons, he expects him to be the next chairman.”

The Politico report goes on to note: "The Texas Republican, from a defense-heavy district where V-22 Ospreys are built, is the natural choice to succeed McKeon, given his current position as the committee’s vice chairman. But two other Republicans on the committee, Reps. Randy Forbes of Virginia and Mike Turner of Ohio, have often been mentioned as possibilities by defense lobbyists and industry sources."

 

A former aide to Lubbock Congressman Larry Combest, Thornberry was first elected to Congress in 1994. He has already filed for re-election and has drawn two primary challengers — Elaine Hays of Amarillo and Pam Barlow of Bowie. Hays told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal last month that she is running because “my primary concern is that Mr. Thornberry no longer reflects the interests of our district.”

The top position on Armed Service is coveted because it is the largest committee in the House with oversight over the Defense Department and its more than a half-trillion-dollar budget. But as the National Journal wrote this summer, the position has lost some luster in a Congress dominated by budget cuts.

Culled

•    Lack of police transparency in Rice arrest angers lawmaker (Houston Chronicle): "A veteran state lawmaker said Monday he is outraged by televised images of Rice University police officers striking a suspected bicycle thief with batons and appalled the university can refuse to release details because it is a private institution."

•    Branch Files Brief Defending Abortion Restrictions (The Texas Tribune): "State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who is vying to be the state’s next attorney general, filed an amicus brief on Friday encouraging the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm abortion restrictions approved by the Legislature earlier this year."

•    Cost of Health Care Law Is Seen as Decreasing (The New York Times): "The rollout of President Obama’s health care law may have deeply disappointed its supporters, but on at least one front, the Affordable Care Act is beating expectations: its cost."

•    Adelson not afraid to lead battle vs. online poker advocates (San Antonio Express-News): "Sheldon Adelson can take it. The chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp. — with a net worth estimated at nearly $35 billion — has never been one to shy away from controversy. ... Adelson has now focused his attention on the battle for legalized and regulated online poker and gaming. He's against it. He hates it."

Quote to Note: "Of course it was a beating. If [Rice administrators] don't have zero tolerance for what I saw with my own eyes, I will deal with them in Austin." — State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, calling for the firing of Rice University police officers caught on video striking a suspected bicycle thief with batons

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