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The Evening Brief: Jan. 4, 2012

Your evening reading: eight Texas Republicans vote against Sandy relief bill; Cornyn open to government shutdown in debt ceiling debate; Joaquin Castro elected president of freshman Democratic class

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•   8 Texas Republicans vote against Superstorm Sandy relief (Houston Chronicle): "Texas Republicans were divided over providing $9 billion in federal aid to the victims of Superstorm Sandy, with 8 of the state’s 24 GOP House members voting no. The emergency measure — pulled from consideration on New Year’s Night by House Speaker John Boehner, was approved on a bipartisan vote of 354 to 67. It took Congress more than two months to help the hard-hit states of New Jsersey, New York and Connecticut — far longer than it took lawmakers to respond to previous storms such as Katrina."

•   Sen. John Cornyn embraces gov't shutdown as option in debt ceiling talks (The Dallas Morning News): "Texas Sen. John Cornyn today embraced the possibility of forcing a partial government shutdown if President Obama and other Democrats don’t give Republicans the spending cuts they seek during upcoming debt ceiling talks."

•   Joaquin Castro elected president of frosh Democratic class (San Antonio Express-News): "San Antonio Rep. Joaquin Castro was elected by his peers Friday to serve as president of the freshman class of Democrats in the 113th Congress. The honor was bestowed upon the San Antonio lawmaker as freshmen received their committee assignments for the upcoming legislative session."

•   Gadfly warns: Vote for Straus, get demerits on group’s scorecard for bills his lieutenants smother (The Dallas Morning News): "Anti-tax crusader and state policy gadfly Michael Quinn Sullivan, who very much wants to see House members dump Speaker Joe Straus on Tuesday, has added a new twist to his group Empower Texans PAC’s legislative scorecard: Vote for Straus, and you’ll not just get dinged. You’ll get dinged and dinged and dinged."

•   GOP scrambles to fix its primary problem (Politico): "The disastrous 2012 election and embarrassing fiscal cliff standoff has brought forth one principal conclusion from establishment Republicans: They have a primary problem. … In an interview in the Capitol, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the NRSC chairman in the past two elections and now the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, said, 'I think you’re going to see more people involved in primaries,' right as he rounded a corner and nearly ran into Crossroads CEO Steven Law."

New in The Texas Tribune:

•   Red River Water Rivalry Goes to U.S. Supreme Court: "The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will hear a major cross-border water case that pits Tarrant County against Oklahoma. North Texas wants water, but Oklahoma doesn't want to sell."

•   Texas Getting $36 Million in Settlement Over Medicaid Fraud Cases: "The Texas attorney general's office secured $36 million Friday in a lawsuit settlement with Pfizer Inc. and Endo Pharmaceuticals, which had been accused of illegally inflating the market prices of certain drugs in reports to the state."

•   Will New Year Bring New University to the Valley?: "There is a significant amount of excitement in the Rio Grande Valley about a proposal to combine the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of Texas-Pan American into a new university that would also have a planned medical school."

•   Clearing Texas Rape Kit Backlog Will Cost Millions: "It could cost Texas up to $11 million to clear the backlog of some 20,000 untested rape kits in police agencies statewide. If Congress doesn't come through with funding, lawmakers here in Texas will search for funds to help solve the crimes."

•   Once Again, Legislating Will Interrupt Politicking: "The elections never seem to stop. Neither does the electioneering. In Texas, it feels like there's a two-year political season, interrupted by five months of fierce legislating — a bit of which has as much to do with politics and elections as with governing the state."

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