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The Brief: April 11, 2013

With gun and immigration bills gaining new momentum in Washington, the spotlight has again fallen on Ted Cruz.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to an Austin Chamber of Commerce audience on April 5, 2013.

The Big Conversation

With gun and immigration bills gaining new momentum in Washington, the spotlight has again fallen on Ted Cruz.

Despite movement Wednesday on a gun-control bill in Congress, Cruz, the state's junior U.S. senator, refused to abandon his pledge to filibuster any gun deal brought to the Senate floor.

"Critics say we need to have a debate and need to have a vote. We are debating. We will vote," Cruz told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on her show Wednesday morning, according to the Houston Chronicle. But "when it comes to our Second Amendment rights we should have a 60-vote threshold," Cruz added, alluding to a filibuster he and 13 other Republican senators, including Rand Paul of Kentucky, have threatened.

Cruz's comments came the same day two pro-gun senators, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, unveiled a bipartisan deal on background checks that will allow a gun bill to reach the Senate floor. Cruz's comments also came the same day his office said he had spoken privately with Erica Lafferty, the 27-year-old daughter of the slain principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung. Erica used Twitter to go after Cruz and the 13 other Republicans threatening a filibuster, as the Chronicle documented, and Cruz was the only one who agreed to speak with her on the phone. A Cruz spokeswoman called the conversation cordial but said, "They agreed to disagree."

Meanwhile, immigration reform also took a step forward Wednesday after a bipartisan group of senators appeared to have reached an agreement on comprehensive legislation. 

At an immigration rally in Houston on Wednesday, one of several across the country, protesters called on Cruz to support such reform. The senator, though, has recently expressed "deep concerns" over a pathway to citizenship supported by the Senate group.

Such comments put him at odds — rhetorically, at least — with Gov. Rick Perry, who on Wednesday said, "We need to be having this conversation about how to deal with the 12 million that are here and how to create a thoughtful system." As The Dallas Morning News writes, "Perry’s comments mark a shift, not necessarily in his views about how to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, but in his political talking points."


•    House Panel Debates "Fetal Pain" Bill (The Texas Tribune): "The House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday took testimony on the controversial so-called fetal pain bill, a measure backed by Gov. Rick Perry and abortion opponents who argue that 20 weeks is the point at which fetuses can feel pain."

•    Texas Senate plan: Take $6B from Rainy Day Fund (The Associated Press): "A new plan in the Texas Senate calls for voters to authorize $6 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund to pay for water and road projects. The proposal by Republican state Sen. Tommy Williams, the chief budget-writer in the Senate, earmarks $2.5 billion for water projects and $3.5 billion to improve deteriorating and congested highways. Texas voters would have to approve both measures with constitutional amendments in November."

•    The Obama budget: What it means to Texas (Houston Chronicle): "On Wednesday, President Obama released his $3.77 trillion budget blueprint that features investments in infrastructure education, and research while replacing the automatic budget cuts that went to effect last month with increased taxes and specific spending cuts. The plan would reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years. … Although the Department of Homeland Security would lose 1.5 percent of its discretionary funding, the border would receive more federal dollars. Customs and Border Protection would receive $221 million and 1,600 officers would be added to the border."

Quote of the Day: "If you believe in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change. That certainly wasn't because man had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy." — U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, during an Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday


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