The Big Conversation:
The all-consuming "fiscal cliff" saga came to a dramatic end late Tuesday with a deal that won the support of only a handful of Texas Republicans.
The House voted 257 to 167 in support of the deal, which will prevent large income tax increases on most Americans and forestall the broad cuts to military and domestic spending that were set to take effect Wednesday. The Senate had overwhelmingly approved the bill late Monday night.
All nine congressional Democrats from Texas voted for the bill, but only four members of the Texas GOP delegation — Kevin Brady of Conroe, Pete Sessions of Dallas, Lamar Smith of San Antonio and Mac Thornberry of Clarendon — joined the 85 Republicans who supported the measure. Rep. Ron Paul did not vote.
In a statement, Sessions said he was "pleased to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to make critical parts of our tax code permanent for all North Texans."
The bill faced opposition from conservatives who said it failed to include enough spending cuts. The legislation will raise tax rates on households that earn more than $450,000 a year — marking the first time in two decades that Congress has voted to raise income taxes.
Though both of Texas' current U.S. senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, voted for the bill, Sen.-elect Ted Cruz said he wouldn't have.
"Sadly, the Senate began 2013 by passing $620 billion in new taxes and just $15 billion in spending 'cuts' mere minutes after the bill was drafted," Cruz wrote in a Facebook post, adding, "Meanwhile, the real crisis — spending money we don’t have and jeopardizing our children’s future — remains totally unaddressed.”
- Kenneth "Buddy" Barfield, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's campaign manager, is facing a criminal investigation amid accusations, first reported last week by The Dallas Morning News, that he has stolen at least $600,000 from Dewhurst's campaign accounts since 2008. The alleged embezzlement — which could total more than $1 million — has been referred to the Travis County district attorney. "All I can say is that the lieutenant governor is shocked and dismayed that a trusted former senior adviser would steal from a campaign account for his own gain," Dewhurst spokesman Rob Johnson told the Tribune. "The level of money is shocking."
- A state district judge on Monday allowed the launch of the Texas Women's Health Program to proceed, pending a trial challenging the state’s exclusion of Planned Parenthood from the program. The judge denied a temporary restraining order allowing Planned Parenthood clinics to participate in the new state-run program, which has been thrust into the middle of a long-running fight between Texas Republicans and women's health advocates over abortion providers.
- The Morning News has named exonerees Michael Morton and Christopher Scott its 2012 Texans of the Year. The two men, who were wrongfully imprisoned for murders, have used their newfound freedom to push for reform of the state's criminal justice system. "Any man would need an ocean of inner strength to survive arrest, conviction and hard prison time for a crime he did not commit," the newspaper wrote. "It takes even more strength to cling to hope that someday, the system will make things right so he can clear his name and walk free."
"The American people are the real winners tonight — not anyone who navigates these halls." — U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., on the House floor Tuesday night
- FreedomWorks tea party group nearly falls apart in fight between old and new guard, The Washington Post
- Sea swallowing Galveston faster than thought, Houston Chronicle
- Five signs that Dallas is becoming a better city, The Dallas Morning News
- Dallas Democrats tighten grip on county as new officials take office, WFAA
- TribYear: (Some of) Our Best Stories of 2012, The Texas Tribune
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