The Big Conversation
Opposition in Texas to an attack on Syria continued to calcify on Monday as the debate in Washington took a surprise turn.
The jarring turn of events in D.C. started Monday morning, when Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that Syria could prevent U.S. military action if it relinquished its arsenal of chemical weapons to international monitors.
The statement drew support from Russia, Syria's most powerful ally, and within hours had even won tentative backing from some U.S. lawmakers and, possibly, President Barack Obama, who said the idea "could potentially be a significant breakthrough."
Though Obama and Kerry cast doubt on the viability of the plan, the emergence of a diplomatic alternative in Syria has complicated the White House's uphill fight to sell a military strike to Congress — namely the Republican-controlled House — and a war-weary American public.
On Monday, meanwhile, yet another Texas lawmaker, Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, announced his opposition to military action, bringing the number of Texans in the House who are against intervention to at least 14.
"After listening to the views of other members of Congress and convening a town hall last week to hear from over 200 constituents directly and many thousands more who have contacted my offices, my position on Syria remains that U.S. military intervention will not make things in that country better," O'Rourke said, according to the El Paso Times.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who in Texas has emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of the military strike, stepped up his criticism of Obama's plan, writing in a Washington Post op-ed published today: "The administration’s current policy is based on averting immediate risk and accommodating the international community, as is demonstrated by its proposed defense of international norms in Syria. This action fails to protect U.S. long-term national security interests. I cannot in good conscience support it."
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Cruz's Texas colleague, appears likely to oppose Obama's plan but, according to Politico, will probably vote to allow debate to proceed on the measure.
"I think [there] will be broad consensus to get on the resolution and offer amendments — and debate those," Cornyn said. "That’s what we’re supposed to do, and that’s what the gravity of this deserves."
• No Waiver for Texas on Testing for Younger Students (The Texas Tribune): "A state request to waive No Child Left Behind testing requirements for students in elementary and middle school has been denied by the federal government, thwarting a state effort to end some tests for high-performing students."
• Democratic Lawmakers Ask Texas Military Forces to Process Same-Sex Benefits (The Texas Tribune): "Sixteen Democratic state lawmakers have called on the Texas Military Forces to process veteran benefits claims for same-sex spouses while it awaits an opinion from Attorney General Greg Abbott."
• Religious conservatives on Texas textbook review panels criticize proposed science books (The Dallas Morning News): "Religious conservatives serving on state textbook review panels have criticized several proposed high school biology textbooks for not including arguments against Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The review panels include several creationists. They urge the State Board of Education to reject the books unless publishers include more disclaimers on key concepts of evolution. One reviewer even suggested a rule requiring that each biology book cover 'creation science.' … The evaluations will be presented at a board meeting next week."
Quote to Note: "I’m just continually surprised that some people still want to argue that tort reform didn’t work." — Gov. Rick Perry at an event on Monday commemorating the 10th anniversary of legislation limiting medical liability
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