The Brief: April 2, 2013

A clash of political heavyweights has pounded new urgency into the debate over Medicaid expansion in Texas.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio; San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro; and state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, at a Capitol press conference on April 1, 2013.

The Big Conversation

A clash of political heavyweights has pounded new urgency into the debate over Medicaid expansion in Texas.

On Monday, Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz faced off against San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and his brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, in dueling press conferences over Medicaid expansion, a major provision of federal health care reform.

The Republicans, surrounded by several other state GOP lawmakers, reasserted their opposition to the expansion, which they have said would brankrupt the state.

"Texas will not be held hostage by the Obama administration’s attempt to force us into this fool’s errand of adding more than a million Texans to a broken system," Perry said.

Cruz added, "For those states buying into this, they will come to rue the day."

Democrats, meanwhile, joined by lawmakers like U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin, accused Republicans of putting politics ahead of policy and called on state leaders to broker a deal with the Obama administration that would help reduce the state's uninsured rate, still the highest in the nation.

"This is no longer a Democratic issue or a Republican issue," Julián Castro said. "This is about providing health care insurance so that more of our Texas families can be healthy."

"Governor," Joaquin Castro said, "I hope you will give up the swagger and get serious about expanding Medicaid in Texas."

The debate, as the Houston Chronicle notes, spurred state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, to offer to travel with Kyle Janek, the state's health and human services commissioner, to try to strike a deal with the Obama administration.

Republicans have called on the White House to give Texas a block grant to run and reform Medicaid as it sees fit. Under one possible deal, the state could use the funds to subsidize health savings accounts for the poor; Medicaid recipients would then enroll in managed care plans or receive subsidies based on their income.

Culled

•    Attorney General Investigating CPRIT Foundation's Latest Move (The Texas Tribune): "The nonprofit foundation associated with the beleaguered Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has dissolved and reconstituted itself under a different name. The attorney general's office is investigating the decision."

•    Kaufman gets interim DA as investigation into double murder continues (The Dallas Morning News): "A high-ranking Kaufman County assistant district attorney who successfully prosecuted a major Aryan Brotherhood case has been named to temporarily lead the office, two days after the district attorney and his wife were found slain in their home. Brandi Fernandez, the first assistant district attorney, will lead the office until Gov. Rick Perry appoints a successor to slain District Attorney Mike McLelland."

•    DPS assistant director commutes at state expense beyond agency’s distance limit (Austin American-Statesman): "For almost three years, Texas Department of Public Safety assistant director Nim Kidd has been commuting from home at state expense, though Kidd lives far beyond the 30-mile limit the DPS sets for employees who drive state-owned vehicles to work."

•    Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton coming to Dallas April 24 (The Dallas Morning News): "North Texas will get what could be an early preview of the 2016 presidential contest. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are scheduled to speak at separate events in the Dallas area April 24, the day before the potential presidential contenders are expected to attend the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center."

Quote of the Day: "I suggest everyone should be careful about what goes on, whether they’re public officials or otherwise. This is a clear concern to individuals who are in public life, particularly those who deal with some very mean and vicious individuals, whether they’re white supremacy groups or whether they’re the drug cartels that we have." — Gov. Rick Perry on the recent murder of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife

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