The Brief: Top Texas News for Jan. 18, 2013

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn gives a keynote speech June 8, 2012 at the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn gives a keynote speech June 8, 2012 at the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth.

The Big Conversation

Hoping to avert another debt ceiling showdown, President Obama has found a little common ground with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

Cornyn, R-Texas, told the Houston Chronicle's editorial board on Thursday that Congress wouldn't let the federal government default next month.

"We will raise the debt ceiling. We're not going to default on our debt," Cornyn said, adding, "I will tell you unequivocally, we're not going to default."

Cornyn's comments came amid another heated fight over the nation's borrowing limit, which many congressional Republicans have intended to use as leverage to secure more spending cuts, particularly to entitlements. Unlike in 2011, Obama has refused to negotiate over the debt ceiling, saying further brinkmanship could lead to a financial crisis.

Republicans indicated Thursday that they may instead seek a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, but Cornyn expressed hesitation toward other proposals like postponing payments on bills. "My hope would be that we would not even go there," he told the paper.

Asked about an op-ed he wrote earlier this month calling for a possible partial government shutdown "in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country," Cornyn responded: "You sometimes try to inject a little doubt in your negotiating partner about where you're going to go. But I would tell you unequivocally that we're not going to default."

Capitol Notes
Compiled from Tribune reports

•    For Dean of Senate, Public and Private Blur: "Critics say the dean of the Texas Senate, John Whitmire, D-Houston, is a poster boy for a legislative culture in which real and perceived conflicts of interest are commonplace. Whitmire says he's proud of his four decades in office. 'My constituents have shown a lot of confidence that I'm a great public servant,' he says."

•    Variety of Gun-Related Bills on Table for Session: "At least 20 bills have been filed or proposed by Texas lawmakers on the subject of guns. … Some of the bills revive legislative battles from the past. On Thursday, state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and 13 other co-authors filed Senate Bill 182, which would allow the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses."

•    A national transportation advocacy group largely supported by companies involved in road construction highlighted on Thursday infrastructure problems around the state and called for the Texas Legislature to prioritize road and bridge funding this session. In press conferences held in several Texas cities, TRIP leaders highlighted a new report ranking the state's top 100 transportation challenges, which included 11 major bridges that need major work and seven segments of major roads or highways that need to be reconstructed. The report identifies "deterioration and congestion" on Interstate 30 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as the state's top transportation challenge. Read the report here.

Culled
Texas news from across the state and around the web

•    Armstrong admits doping, says he’s 'deeply flawed' (Austin American-Statesman): "In a 90-minute television interview broadcast internationally, Lance Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs and techniques and used a flurry of unflattering adjectives to describe behavior that consumed his sporting life and destroyed his legacy. Armstrong described himself as an arrogant bully, someone who needed to be in control. He said his behavior was ridiculous as he lied and covered up the evidence that he used a 'cocktail' of drugs to become one of the most recognized athletes on the planet."

•    Ted Cruz: Gun push has 2014 political price (Politico): "Sen. Ted Cruz said Thursday he believes President Barack Obama’s gun control efforts not only won’t work, but will backfire and kick off a conservative resurgence. The Texas Republican stopped by 'The Laura Ingraham Show' to discuss the president’s 'extreme anti-gun agenda.' He blasted Obama for 'exploiting the murder of children' in order to push for gun control in the wake of Newtown. 'I think the consequence, I think he’s going to pay a serious political price,' Cruz told Ingraham. 'And I think the price that’s going to be paid on this is going to manifest in Senate races in 2014.'"

•    Appeals panel rejects student's request on RFID badge (San Antonio Express-News): "A federal appeals court decision today means a student who refuses to wear a student ID badge in protest of Northside Independent School District's radio frequency tracking system will either have to comply or be transferred from her John Jay High School magnet program to her neighborhood campus. … She and her father Steven had testified they consider the badges to be the 'mark of the beast' described in the biblical book of Revelation."

•    State's public schools need improving now, Texas Association of Business leader testifies in finance trial (The Dallas Morning News): "The president of the state’s leading business association testified Thursday that Texas businesses will suffer — and some may leave the state — unless there is a concerted effort to improve public schools and ensure that graduates are either career- or college-ready. Texas Association of Business president Bill Hammond told the judge in the state’s school finance case that businesses are having trouble finding qualified employees as many applicants lack basic academic skills and can’t meet the needs of potential employers."

Quote of the Day: "I’m flawed, deeply flawed." — Lance Armstrong in his interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired Thursday

Must-Read

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