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The Brief: Aug. 9, 2013

Obamacare — how Texas should implement it and how opponents in Washington should fight it — was a hot topic in Austin on Thursday, and the views expressed were not necessarily the most predictable.

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The Big Conversation

Obamacare — how Texas should implement it and how opponents in Washington should fight it — was a hot topic in Austin on Thursday, and the views expressed were not necessarily the most predictable.

During a visit to Austin City Hall, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the federal government was open to a "uniquely Texan" approach to expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act in the Lone Star State.

As the Trib's Becca Aaronson reported, the $90 billion committed by the federal government to extending health benefits to poor Texans via the state's Medicaid program won't actually make it to Texas unless state leaders approve Medicaid expansion. To date, they have not.

“We are eager to have discussions with Texas about a program that could look uniquely Texan,” Sebelius said. “But as far as I know, those conversations, at least with the state officials, are not taking place right now.”

In a statement issued on Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry did not seem swayed by Sebelius' visit. “With due respect," he said, "the secretary and our president are missing the point: It's not that Americans don't understand Obamacare, it's that we understand it all too well.”

Also on Thursday, Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is seeking to take over for Perry as governor in 2014, declined to endorse one of the key strategies for fighting Obamacare promoted by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and other Tea Party-backed Republicans in Washington: a temporary shut-down of the federal government.

Abbott was speaking at a campaign event at Texas Mailhouse, a mailing services company. The Trib's Jay Root reported that Abbott said he supported anything that will “get rid of Obamacare, whether it be defunding it or stripping it down altogether,” but he repeatedly refused to give his views about shutting down the government. He said he did not know "the mechanics of how all that works."

Tom Pauken, Abbott’s Republican opponent, also told the Tribune that he had "not formulated a final opinion” on a government shutdown.

While he has yet to determine how to approach the issue in D.C., Abbott — whose time as attorney general has been marked by  disputes with the federal government — did not seem to take comfort in the possibility that health care expansion could be tailored in a "uniquely Texan" manner.

“The problem isn’t the marketing of Obamacare, or the selling of Obamacare. The problem is Obamacare,” Abbott said.


•   Under New State Ratings, Most Schools Met Standards (The Texas Tribune): "The vast majority of the state's public schools met the standards set by new state accountability ratings debuted by the Texas Education Agency on Thursday."

•    Michael Quinn Sullivan ethics battle resurface (Houston Chronicle): "The ongoing ethics saga involving Michael Quinn Sullivan, the influential conservative gadfly who has rankled House leadership, could come to an end in October. In a closed session Thursday, the Texas Ethics Commission for the first time took up complaints lodged in April 2012 by Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, and former Rep. Vicki Truitt against Sullivan and his non-profit political arm Empower Texans."

•    Rep. Louie Gohmert to challenge Sen. John Cornyn? Some tea partiers hope so. (The Dallas Morning News): "Some Texas tea partiers are prodding Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, to challenge Sen. John Cornyn next year. Gohmert ruled out a run last month, telling the Washington Examiner that “it’s not on my radar” to run against Cornyn, a well-funded incumbent who serves as deputy Senate GOP leader."

Quote to Note: "We're just going to enjoy what we think is very good news that, a month early, we have already set a record here in fundraising." — University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers, declining to comment on his administrations strained relationship with the University of Texas System on Thursday after announcing that the school has raised nearly $400 million in the last year.


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