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The Brief: Nov. 17, 2010

Did Kay Bailey Hutchison just kick off her re-election campaign?

U.S. Sen Kay Bailey Hutchison with a supporter after filing for Texas governor on Dec. 7, 2009

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Did Kay Bailey Hutchison just kick off her re-election campaign?

Hutchison has flirted with retirement for years now, but her vote Tuesday in favor of a Tea Party-pushed moratorium on earmarks — the use of which she's long defended — has amplified speculation that the U.S. senator is gearing up to run again in 2012.

Her vote came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a fellow earmark defender, on Monday caved to pressure from Tea Party groups, on whom Hutchison's political future in Texas may hinge.

Hutchison has previously said in defense of earmark spending that eliminating such provisions — which in Texas often support infrastructure and military installations — would hand all state spending discretion to the executive branch and do little to cut overall spending.

But on Tuesday, she said a moratorium would "start the process of reform that is essential to address the crushing debt our country has accumulated."

Texas received more than $400 million in earmarks in 2010 and $115 billion in the last three years. That number may be high, and cuts could certainly endanger a number of state projects, but as Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports, some think the state can find other sources of funding.

As for her re-election, Hutchison was still quiet on Tuesday. "She's not thinking about that right now," an aide said, according to The Dallas Morning News.

CULLED:

  • Possibly foreshadowing just how conservative the next legislative session may be, state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, filed a bill Tuesday requiring candidates running for president or vice president to present their birth certificates to the Texas secretary of state. "This bill is necessary because we have a president whom the American people don’t know whether he was born in Kenya or some other place," Berman said, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
  • An interview with Tom DeLay recorded by Austin American-Statesman reporter Laylan Copelin has become the latest focal point in the former U.S. House majority leader's money-laundering trial.

"I mean, golly, I love this stuff. You haven't seen the last of Don McLeroy.” — Departing 12-year State Board of Education member and self-described "religious fanatic" Don McLeroy, who lost his GOP primary in March and will sit in on his final meetings as a board member this week. McLeroy told the Trib's Morgan Smith that he still may run for his old spot on the board in two years.

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