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The Brief: March 23, 2012

The ongoing fight over the Women's Health Program has rekindled a storied rivalry.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry.

The Big Conversation:

The ongoing fight over the Women's Health Program has rekindled a storied rivalry.

Breaking ranks with her party, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Thursday urged Gov. Rick Perry — her erstwhile gubernatorial rival — to work with the Obama administration to keep federal money flowing to the Women's Health Program, which has been caught in a crossfire between the state and the feds over state support for Planned Parenthood.

Texas "can't keep turning back federal funds that every state gets and then try to find money in our budget which is already being cut in key areas like education," Hutchison said in an appearance on MSNBC, adding, "I do think that the governor needs to sit down with the federal government and work it out so that we can have our share, our fair share."

Texas Republicans have attempted to exclude Planned Parenthood from the health program. In response, the Obama administration, calling those efforts illegal, has cut off funding for the program.

Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier sharply criticized Hutchison's comments.

“It is unfortunate that Texas’ senior senator would side with the Obama administration and its pro-abortion political allies over the will and laws of the Texans she represents,” Frazier said in a statement, adding, "We suspect if the senator was fully aware of the fact that the Obama administration is the one responsible for denying these funds, she would support working with the Texas delegation and state officials to reverse this misguided decision."

Hutchison's comments stood in stark contrast to those of the numerous state Republican leaders who have voiced their support for Perry's decision to forgo federal funding for the program, which provides reproductive screenings and services for low-income women.

Culled:

  • Rick Santorum promised on Thursday to campaign hard in Texas, saying the state could help him "reset" the presidential race. “I’m going to spend a lot of time in Texas. This is an important state for us,” Santorum told reporters after a town hall meeting in San Antonio. “We’re going to keep coming. People are very hospitable to us.” As the Tribune's Jay Root notes, Santorum's new vow to compete in Texas, as well as the possibility that Mitt Romney may not be able to clinch the nomination by June, could make Texas a major player in the GOP race for the first time since 1976, when Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford waged a fierce battle.
  • The Federal Election Commission on Thursday approved Rick Perry's plans to form a PAC or Super PAC with his remaining primary campaign funds. The commission also ruled that Perry may funnel those funds to his Texas committee, though it could not agree whether the governor could use his remaining general election funds for similar purposes. Perry submitted his request for advice to the commission on Feb. 13, nearly a month after he dropped out of the presidential race.
  • The Tribune's Emily Ramshaw and Thanh Tan today look at the history of the Women's Health Program, whose origins can be traced to 1999, when family-planning advocates started asking state lawmakers for $40 million to fund contraception and reproductive exams for poor women. After years of bipartisan efforts, Rick Perry signed the measure into law in 2005, but not before Republican concerns over public funding for Planned Parenthood prompted lawmakers to pass a Senate amendment banning abortion providers from participating in the program.

"Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama. Obama is the most dangerous American alive ... because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country." — Dallas billionaire and major Republican donor Harold Simmons to The Wall Street Journal

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