Archive for November, 2011

National security debate sets Ron Paul apart as different from the pack

Texas Congressman Ron Paul (R-Clute) set himself apart from the other seven GOP candidates last night in CNN’s National Security debate. The first question was about the Patriot Act, and whether it should be extended as a tool in the war on terror.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he would not change the act and would consider strengthening it. Paul disagreed.

"I think the Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty," Paul said. "We have drifted into a condition we were warned against because our early fathers were very clear. They said, ‘Don’t be willing to sacrifice liberty for security.’ Today, it seems too easy that our government and our Congress is so willing to give up our liberty for our security. I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty. You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights."

Ron Paul got big applause with that response.

He also stood apart with his stance on Israel. When asked if the U.S. would support Israel if it used military force against Iran to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, Paul said the hypothetical situation would never happen, but if it did, Israel should "take care of themselves."

"Why does Israel need our help? We need to get out of their way," Paul said. "We interfere with them when they deal with their borders. When they want to have peace treaties, we tell them what they can do because we buy their allegiance and they sacrifice their sovereignty to us and then they decide they want to bomb something. That’s their business. They should suffer the consequences."

Paul received a lot applause from a somewhat sleepy audience throughout the debate. The biggest victory for Ron Paul supporters last night might have been his air time. He got far more time on screen this time around than during the last national security debate.

State asks DC court for redistricting trial by second week in December

The state is asking federal judges in Washington to move forward with the redistricting trial as soon as possible, no later than the second week of December.

In a petition filed by Attorney General Greg Abbott Tuesday, the state estimates the trial will not take longer than 8 days.

You can find the petition on lawyer Michael Li’s Texas Redistricting blog.

Rep. Driver pleads guilty to felony charge

Rep. Joe Driver (R-Garland) plead guilty today to using more than $20,000 in taxpayer money to reimburse himself for travel.

The Travis County District Attorney’s office writes:

"Driver used the money intended for his campaign officeholder account by depositing those funds into his personal account. Driver should have repaid the reimbursement funds to his campaign officeholder account, which had initially been used to pay the travel expenses."

The charge of "abuse of official capacity" is a third degree felony. Sentencing will be December 19.

Driver is facing up to five years probation and a $5,000 fine. He is also being asked by prosecutors to pay back more than $14,000 to his campaign account.

Rep. Driver has already repaid more than $49,000 and has said he won’t seek re-election when his term expires in January 2013.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Speaker Straus responds to court redistricting maps

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) released a statement Monday in response to the federal court’s House redistricting maps.

Straus said the three judge panel went too far in changes to the maps drawn by the Legislature during the last session.

"As the panel of three federal judges prepares to issue its ruling on district lines for the Texas House of Representatives, I hope that the judges will take into account the will of the people of Texas as expressed by their elected representatives. I, along with many Members of the House, have strong concerns that the initial map released by the court last week goes much further than is necessary to correct any perceived legal defects in the recently-adopted redistricting plan.

"Members of the Texas House approved a redistricting plan that is fair and that the State’s lawyers have advised us is legal. Even if the panel of judges concludes that the new lines violate federal law in some respects, their role should be limited to making as few revisions as possible to cure those perceived defects, instead of making wholesale changes to the duly elected map.

"If the final order of the court is not substantially closer to the plan we passed, I will urge the Attorney General to seek an immediate stay from the U.S. Supreme Court so that several issues under the Voting Rights Act can be clarified before the federal judges impose their new map on Texas voters for the 2012 elections."

The courts have not released congressional maps yet.

The Texas Democratic Party responded to Straus’ comments in a release of its own. They say Straus is pandering to ensure he stays speaker.

“State employees don’t get a vote on the House floor and they certainly don’t wield the power that comes with the Speaker’s gavel. This is a transparent attempt to pass the buck on a map, which every reasonable person who isn’t trying to pander to the Tea Party, recognized immediately as a blatant violation of the Voting Rights Act.

After letting the Tea Party Republican freshmen run his chamber, I can understand why Straus would prefer the illegal Republican-heavy map that might keep him in the Speaker’s chair. However, following the Voting Rights Act is not optional.”

‘Supercommittee’ fails to reach a deficit reduction deal

A bipartisan supercommitee has failed to agree on a deal to cut $1.2 trillion from the budget. The announcement came this afternoon after several hours of last ditch, unscheduled bipartisan talks.

From the start, lawmakers were divided about how to cut spending and some speculated it was doomed from the beginning, with a tax on wealthy Americans as the main sticking point.

Committee co-chairs Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Sen. Patty Murray released this statement:

"After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline.

"Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve. We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.

"We are deeply disappointed that we have been unable to come to a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement, but as we approach the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving, we want to express our appreciation to every member of this committee, each of whom came into the process committed to achieving a solution that has eluded many groups before us. Most importantly, we want to thank the American people for sharing thoughts and ideas and for providing support and good will as we worked to accomplish this difficult task.

"We would also like to thank our committee staff, in particular Staff Director Mark Prater and Deputy Staff Director Sarah Kuehl, as well as each committee member’s staff for the tremendous work they contributed to this effort. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Douglas Elmendorf and Mr. Thomas Barthold and their teams at the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation, respectively, for the technical support they provided to the committee and its members."

So what is the fallout? The backup plan calls $1.2 trillion in across the board cuts divided between defense spending and domestic programs like medicaid. However, many doubt it will come to that. CBS commentator Constantine von Hoffman called the Supercommittee’s failure to cut the budget "as predictable as the Chicago Cubs failing to get to the World Series and about as significant, " saying "there is little chance the doomsday spending reductions will ever come to pass."

President Obama is holding firm against attempts to ease the automatic spending cuts, promising to veto any legislation that does so. In a press conference, he said, "One way or another, we will be trimming the deficit by at least $2.2 trillion over the next 10 year."

McCaul blames supercommittee failure on Dems

Congressman Michael McCaul released this statement about the debt subcommittee’s failure to reach a deficit cutting agreement:

"I am disappointed that Democrats on the select committee have balked at proposals made by Republicans to reform entitlements – a genuine attempt to make the most significant systemic change to the long term use of taxpayer dollars. Washington does not have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. Unfortunately, Democrats continue to counter legitimate cuts with tax increases which only serve to penalize families and businesses and protect the status quo of unsustainable budgets. Congress must fulfill its responsibility to cut a minimum of $1.2 trillion and I believe it is incumbent upon us to come to an agreement on the sensible downsizing of government."

Hutchison responds to debt subcommittee failure

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison released this statement in response to the failure of the debt subcommittee to reach an agreement:

"The failure of the Supercommittee underscores the fundamental divide in Washington, D.C. over how to spur economic growth and create jobs. That’s why reducing the nation’s $15 trillion debt – which grows daily — must be the single-minded goal of Congress for the remainder of this year, and if necessary, for the remainder of next year. Immediate spending cuts, entitlement reform, and modernizing the tax code – these are the solutions that will boost businesses, create jobs, and improve consumer confidence."

Gingrich gaining more ground in GOP race

Herman Cain’s losses appears to be Newt Gingrich’s gain. Two weeks after breaking into the USA Today/Gallup Poll released today has Gingrich in first place with 22 percent. That puts him in a statistical tie with Mitt Romney, who had 21 percent.

Cain has seen his poll numbers slip over the past month. Since the last USA Today/Gallup poll at the beginning of November, he dropped five percentage points. Some of that slide is attributed to a sexual harassment scandal and what some call his weakness on national security policy

Gov. Rick Perry’s poll numbers are also continuing their downward spiral. He came behind Ron Paul. The two candidates had 8 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

So what does it all mean? According to Gallup, "there is no clear national front-runner for the Republican nomination" and this is shaping up to be "the most competitive and perhaps most unpredictable for the Republican nomination since 1972, when the parties shifted the power to choose their presidential nominees away from party leaders at the national convention to the rank-and-file voters in state primaries and caucuses."

GOP candidates talk values at Christian forum in Iowa

Most of the Republican Presidential candidates are in Iowa this weekend. All except for Mitt Romney took part in a Saturday night forum hosted by The Family Leader, an evangelical group. The forum focused on social issues, and the role of religious faith in public life.

Gov. Perry played to social conservatives. He discussed his upbringing in Paint Creek and said he supports a federal marriage amendment. He said there are ways the state can regulate actions by gay couples as well as have them wait for a federal law.

"Until [a federal marriage amendment] does pass, as in the state of Texas, a gay couple cannot adopt a child in the state of Texas," Perry said. "So states have the ability, again until there is a federal marriage amendment, that clearly states that marriage is between one man and one woman and in that as well you cannot adopt a child unless it is one man and one woman."

We found gay individuals in Texas can adopt children, however both people in the couple cannot be listed on the birth certificate. The following is the rule listed on the Department of State Health Services website:

The Texas Health and Safety Code 192.008 states that the supplementary birth certificate of an adopted child must be in the name of the adoptive parents, one of whom must be a female, named as the mother and the other of whom must be a male, named as the father.

To meet this statutory requirement, when a child is adopted by a same-sex couple, one of the adoptive parents must choose to be designated on the birth certificate as the father, in the case of a male couple, or the mother, in the case of a female couple. The other adoptive parent is not listed.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul stayed on message during Saturday’s forum. Paul often campaigns on reigning in the federal government. He received loud applause when he said many government agencies handle things that the Founding Fathers meant to be left to the state.

"Most things were left to the states. Monetary issue was left to the federal government, defense was left to the federal government, but most like education, why in the world have we ever drifted to the point where we allow this casualness to ignore the Constitution and say it’s a federal function? We don’t need the Department of Education, we need those things taken care of at the state level."

Ron Paul is polling well in Iowa. In a poll out earlier this week, Paul was in a statistical tie with Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain.

Extended Interview: Perry criticizes Obama in New York City address

Governor Rick Perry was in New York City, Friday to accept an award from the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation. He took the opportunity to blast US Attorney General Eric Holder’s handling of the "Fast and Furious" operation and blamed President Obama for making the border more dangerous.

Gov. Perry sat down with Josh Robin, from our sister station in New York City. Here is the complete interview.