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The Brief: Dec. 18, 2015

The question of what Ted Cruz really thinks about immigration continued to persist a couple of days after the GOP presidential debate where the issue figured prominently.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz at the CNN presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada on Dec. 15, 2015.

The Big Conversation

The question of what Ted Cruz really thinks about immigration continued to persist a couple of days after the GOP presidential debate where the issue figured prominently in clashes between the Texas senator and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The Tribune's Patrick Svitek reported that Cruz chose to address things himself, using blunt language while talking with reporters on Thursday before a Las Vegas rally. After saying he opposed amnesty, citizenship and legalization for undocumented immigrants, Cruz told his GOP rivals "to stop making silly assertions that their records and my records on immigration are the same."

After the Tuesday debate, the Cruz campaign had a spokesman state that Cruz was "unequivocally" opposed to legalization.

The conflict between Rubio and Cruz boils down to what was Cruz's intent when he offered up an amendment to an immigration reform bill in 2013 authored by Rubio. Seung Min Kim of Politico attempts to unpack the claims, writing:

"First is whether Cruz’s amendment was indeed a 'poison pill' meant to kill the immigration bill, which the Texas senator’s campaign now contends. That is unequivocally true, so point goes to Cruz. Second is whether Cruz’s amendment signaled his true policy beliefs at the time. That’s significantly murkier and ultimately, may never be knowable. ... that’s the problem with deploying legislative tactics that are more familiar to Beltway denizens, not primary voters in Iowa or New Hampshire: Cruz’s parliamentary maneuvering is now haunting him as something he has to explain."

Trib Must Reads

Lawsuits, Big Border Dollars Top 2015 Immigration Headlines, by Julián Aguilar — If non-Texans were still unsure how much the state's Republican lawmakers oppose President Obama's immigration and border security policies, 2015 likely cleared that up.

Analysis: For Many Candidates, Election is No Contest, by Ross Ramsey — Now that the political candidates have filed, some of the races in the 2016 election cycle have come to an end. It's not that the elections are over, but 75 federal and state lawmakers don't have any major-party opponents.

More Have Health Insurance, But Texas Lags, by Edgar Walters — The number of Texans with health insurance has increased 20 percent since 2013 under federal health care reform, but Texas’ health insurance gains continue to lag behind the rest of the nation, according to a pair of reports released this week.

Austin Weighs New Uber, Lyft Rules, by Aman Batheja — The future of popular vehicle-for-hire services Uber and Lyft in Austin was up in the air Thursday evening as the city council was set to vote on an ordinance aimed at regulating the firms more like traditional taxi companies.

Study: Barnett Shale Is Richer Than Previously Thought, by Jim Malewitz — North Texas’ Barnett Shale — one of the country’s largest natural gas fields and the birthplace of modern fracking — holds twice as much reachable gas as previously thought, the federal government says.

Rubio Looms Large as Cruz Launches Southern Tour, by Patrick Svitek — Embarking on a weeklong tour of southern states, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz finds himself on the defensive as Sen. Marco Rubio continues pecking away at Cruz's stands on immigration and foreign policy.

Ruben Hinojosa Wants Ruben Hinojosa's House Seat, by Jim Malewitz — One Democratic candidate to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa in Congressional District 15 is Ruben Ramirez Hinojosa, a 33-year-old University of Houston law student and U.S. Army combat veteran from McAllen.

Judge: Foster Care System Violates Children's Rights, by Edgar Walters and Emily Ramshaw — A federal judge ruled Thursday that Texas has violated foster children's constitutional rights to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm, saying that children "often age out of care more damaged than when they entered."

Vela Lends a Hand — and an Aide — to Gene Green, by Abby Livingston — A top operative for U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela is headed for U.S. Rep. Gene Green's already heated re-election campaign against challenger — and failed Houston mayoral candidate — Adrian Garcia.

Bass Picked as New Head of Transportation Agency, by Aman Batheja — The Texas Transportation Commission selected a new executive director for the Texas Department of Transportation Thursday: James Bass, the agency’s longtime chief financial officer.

Incumbents Seek to Influence Legislative Primaries, by Patrick Svitek — With the primary election less than three months away, a handful of legislators are considering just how much they want to throw their weight around in the contests.

The Day Ahead

•    Gov. Greg Abbott is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at the graduation ceremony for Department of Public Safety recruits. The program is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Great Hills Baptist Church in North Austin.


Ted Cruz, Shunned in the Senate, Plays Unpopularity to His Advantage, The New York Times

Cruz, Rubio miss chance to fight massive budget bill, Politico

Cruz picks up top evangelical endorsement, The Hill

Rick Perry Praises Cruz, Rips Trump And Rubio In Iowa Radio Interview, BuzzFeed

The New Attack on Hispanic Voting Rights, The New York Times

Trial date set in wrongful death suit in Bland case, Houston Chronicle

City Council plans carrot-and-stick approach to driver fingerprinting, Austin American-Statesman

Change in city zoning rules for abortion providers OK’d, San Antonio Express-News

Premont dreads TEA decision on school district, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Challenge to state's 'futile care' law seeks to continue life support for local man, Houston Chronicle

Lubbock council rejects Robertson's city employee guns resolution; rejects bans on guns in meetings, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Keene school district will allow employees to carry handguns, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Goldman says only $20 oil can guarantee market recovery, Houston Chronicle

‘Black at SMU’ movement seeks unity over division and isolation, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

"Let's have a moment of simple clarity: I oppose amnesty. I oppose citizenship. I oppose legalization for illegal aliens. I always have and I always will, and I challenge every other Republican candidate to say the same thing or if not, to stop making silly assertions that their records and my records on immigration are the same. It is demonstrably false."

— Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, telling reporters before a rally in Las Vegas that his position on people already in the country illegally has never wavered

Today in TribTalk

The tangled web of the Commerce Clause, by Chance Weldon — Since the New Deal, the Commerce Clause has been Congress’ go-to statute when it wants to regulate something but doesn’t have a mechanism to justify it.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A conversation with state Reps. Celia Israel, Eddie Rodriguez and Paul Workman on Jan. 14 at St. Edward's University in Austin

•    The Texas Tribune's second Texas-centric Trivia Night on Jan. 31 at The Highball in Austin

•    A conversation with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

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