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The Brief: Feb. 13, 2014

Ted Cruz put his party's Senate leaders in a tough spot Wednesday: vote against the Democrats on raising the debt limit and risk damaging global markets, or vote with the Democrats and hand Tea Party challengers a line of attack.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, left, is framing his Senate campaign around how he can help U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, right better than current incumbent John Cornyn.

The Big Conversation

Ted Cruz put his party's Senate leaders — Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn — in a tough spot Wednesday: vote against the Democrats on raising the debt limit and risk damaging global markets, or vote with the Democrats and hand Tea Party challengers a line of attack. 

In the end, the men "took the plunge and risked the political backlash by voting to break a filibuster, the type of vote the two wily leaders have long sought to avoid in this election season," wrote Politico's Manu Raju and Burgess Everett. "After hoping the measure passed without their fingerprints, McConnell and Cornyn were forced to own part of it by allowing it to move to a final vote with their consent, even persuading several of their colleagues to switch their votes." Cornyn challenger Steve Stockman was quick to pounce on Cornyn's vote. He accused Cornyn of "using Cruz’s back as 'his own personal cutlery holder,'” wrote The Dallas Morning News' Todd Gillman.

The drama showed something else: Cruz is still willing to cause headaches for the leadership. "Cruz showed no mercy in exposing Republican leaders to widespread criticism from their primary challengers over a procedural vote on the debt limit after their pronouncements about the imperative of spending cuts. ... Pressed after the vote about what he made his leaders do, Cruz was unapologetic," wrote The Associated Press' Donna Cassata"'It should have been a very easy vote,' he told reporters. 'In my view, every Senate Republican should have stood together.'"

The Day Ahead

•    Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis is in San Antonio to continue the rollout of her latest education policy plank. She will be joined by lite guv candidate and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.

•    Sid Miller, candidate for ag commissioner, drops by the Austin Club for a TribLive conversation at 8 a.m. The Tribune will livestream the event.

Today in the Trib

Interactive: Where Texas Candidates Are Buying Airtime: "With less than a week before the start of early voting in the March 4 primaries, use our interactive to see how statewide candidates are spending campaign funds to purchase network airtime in Texas' four biggest media markets."

Stimulus Fund Allegations Spice Up AG Race: "The campaigns for two GOP attorney general candidates — state Rep. Dan Branch and state Sen. Ken Paxton — are accusing each other of benefiting from President Obama's 2009 stimulus package. Those are fighting words in a Texas GOP primary."

Groups Urge TEA to Ban Use of Tasers, Spray in Schools: "Citing new federal guidelines and recent violent incidents, a coalition of interest groups has asked the Texas Education Agency to prohibit the use of 'less lethal' weapons, like Tasers and pepper spray, in public schools."

Report Sheds Light on Poor Working Mothers in Texas: "Fifty-six percent of Texas women heading low-income households lack any college education, the third-highest percentage of any state, according to a report released Wednesday by the Working Poor Families Project."


George P. Bush stumps in Valley, says Abbott’s comments ‘taken out of context’, McAllen Monitor

Lively debate, but no ruling, in gay-marriage hearing, Austin American-Statesman

Accident report shows Rep. Stefani Carter at fault in collision, The Dallas Morning News

Planned Parenthood continues to benefit from Harold Simmons Foundation, The Dallas Morning News

Can Wendy Davis Have It All?, The New York Times Magazine

Wendy Davis says she’d back 20-week ban, Politico

Quote to Note

“It is disgraceful to compare a minor, at-fault fender bender to the life threatening sacrifices made by so many soldiers who have been wounded during battle.”

— House District 102 GOP challenger Sam Brown, criticizing the incumbent, Stefani Carter, for her account of a car accident that she described at a candidate forum as a "life altering" event.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Reps. Joe Deshotel, Allan Ritter and James White at Lamar University in Beaumont, 2/19

•    Texas Tribune Festival On the Road at the University of Texas El Paso for a daylong symposium on demographic change, 2/27

•    Live Post-Primary Election TribCast at the Austin Club, 3/5

•    A Conversation With Sen. Charles Schwertner and Reps. John Raney and Kyle Kacal at Texas A&M University in College Station, 3/27

•    A Conversation with U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway at Midland College in Midland, 5/13

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21

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Politics George P. Bush Greg Abbott John Cornyn Julián Castro Ken Paxton Sid Miller Ted Cruz Wendy Davis