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Agenda Texas: Tea Party Power

On the latest Agenda Texas, from KUT News and the Tribune: Tea Party lawmakers helped kill a major water bill on Monday, but that's one of a small number of victories during a session many thought the more conservative wing of the GOP would flourish.

The crowded House floor during debate on SB 1 April 4, 2013.

It’s been a tumultuous week in the Texas Capitol. A House bill that would have spent $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund on water infrastructure projects was sunk Monday night on a procedural point of order.

Yes, that point of order was brought by a Democrat, but Tea Party Republicans have been trying to block spending from the Rainy Day Fund throughout the session.

That was just one of several battles Tea Partiers expected to win during a session where the more conservative branch of the GOP was expected to dominate. But The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith said it hasn’t turned out that way.

“It’s been a big surprise to, I think, a lot of us who anticipated a more contentious session. Or one in which at least, we expected the more moderate Republican agenda not to prevail," Smith said.

Smith said some Republicans, lead by House Speaker Joe Straus, have added money to public education and fended off Tea Party priorities while debating the state budget.

Smith said that wing of the GOP still has plenty of power in the state, especially when it comes to threatening more moderate Republicans with opponents in the GOP primary.

"And then at the national level, particularly in Congress, I think you see a lot of Tea Party-elected officials who are causing the president not to get any of his agenda through."

That includes the president's efforts on gun control, immigration and the federal budget. 

And at the top of that congressional Tea Party pyramid, Smith said, is U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

"Who, for all we know, is the next president of the United States."

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