Archive for July, 2012

GOP pushes repeal of Affordable Care Act

With a struggling economy the stakes are high this election year and members of Congress are fine tuning their message to voters.

The Republican-led House has a month-long agenda aimed at highlighting where they say Democrats have gone wrong.

"We want to make sure the American people understand what we’re working on in the House and what the Senate is not doing," Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-North Carolina, said.

This week, the House is focusing on repealing the administration’s health care laws which were upheld by the Supreme Court last month.

"Now the Supreme Court has said what we’ve always said all along. It is a tax increase. It will be the largest tax increase in history. So we think there’s a better way to improve the system. This is not the way," Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said.

The House held two hearings Tuesday, previewing Wednesday’s vote to repeal the health care laws. Republicans voted over 30 times to overturn them, and Democrats say enough is enough.

"They feel they gain more politically from just attacking instead of offering any alternative," Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said.
Next week the House plans to highlight the Democrats’ lack of a plan to deal with the massive cuts to military spending. In the following weeks they will focus on burdensome regulations for businesses and maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

While it’s clear the agenda set by the House will be ignored by the Democratic-run Senate, McCaul defended his party saying they’re not playing political games.

"We’re trying to demonstrate that we disagree with the policy, that elections have consequences and given a different make up in the Senate and the White House we may be able to repeal and replace it," McCaul said.

McCaul’s ‘Creating Hope Act’ signed into law

Congressman Michael McCaul is celebrating President Obama’s signing of a law he authored to help sick children.

McCaul co-sponsored the “Creating Hope Act." The law creates federal incentives for pharmaceutical companies that develop drugs to treat rare childhood diseases like sickle cell anemia and cancer.

According to McCaul, the drug industry has stalled its creation of these medicines because other, more widely used drugs are more profitable.

"We do a lot of stuff up here that quite honestly doesn’t mean a whole lot. This is something that I think will make a difference in the lives of children," McCaul said.

McCaul says that since 1980, the Food and Drug Administration has approved only one new drug to treat childhood cancer.

Under the law, companies that develop drugs to treat pediatric illnesses will receive vouchers to help speed up the approval process for their more profitable drugs.

The law will go into effect in 90 days.

Gov. Perry endorses Roger Williams in CD25 runoff

Gov. Perry endorsed Roger Williams in the runoff election for Congressional District 25. Williams is running against Wes Riddle is in the July 31 runoff.

"I strongly endorse Roger Williams for Congress because I know Roger will truly work to overhaul Washington, D.C.," Governor Perry said in a statement. "Washington is broken and needs new people with sound, private sector experience to help bring about limited government, conservative changes for America. Roger Williams will be a leader to stop Barack Obama’s socialist agenda, make Congress abide by the Constitution, and develop conservative solutions to help strengthen our economy."

"I am honored to have Governor Perry endorse me for Congress," Roger Williams said in the same press release. "I have been proud to help elect and re-elect Governor Perry and I believe he is the most conservative governor in America. In 2010, while I was working hard to re-elect our conservative Republican governor, my opponent was serving as the campaign manager for a third-party challenger trying to defeat Governor Perry. I’m proud to be the conservative candidate in this race."

Statewide ads rumble airwaves as election day approaches

It’s been a bitter Republican primary in the race for U.S. Senate, and three weeks out from the runoff election, neither Ted Cruz nor David Dewhurst are letting up on the attacks. Both campaigns released new TV ads, Tuesday.

Cruz Attacks Dewhurst on Taxes

The Cruz campaign’s new ad is the first released since the runoff began. The statewide commercial shows a back-and-forth between Cruz and Dewhurst during the June 22 KERA debate, when Cruz asked the lieutenant governor if he supported a payroll tax. During the debate Dewhurst said he never supported a payroll tax in the state. The ad goes on to point out that PolitiFact Texas found Dewhurst’s comments to be false.

Dewhurst Promises Repeal

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s new statewide ad, "Full Repeal," accompanied an announcement of the "Dewhurst Plan," a bill he promises to introduce on his first day in the U.S. Senate.

"President Obama has never spent a single day running a business. And in Washington that’s not the exception, it’s the norm. That’s how they came up with Obamacare, the next threat to our economy," Dewhurst says in the ad.

Texas won’t implement key parts of health care reform law

YNN’s Alana Rocha shares more reaction to the governor’s move Monday in the video report above.

Governor Perry says Texas won’t set up a state-run health insurance exchange or expand Medicaid in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding President Obama’s health care law. Perry sent a letter with his decision to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Monday.

"If anyone was in doubt, we in Texas have no intention to implement so-called state exchanges or to expand Medicaid under Obamacare,” Gov. Perry said in a statement. “I will not be party to socializing health care and bankrupting my state in direct contradiction to our Constitution and our founding principles of limited government."

"I stand proudly with the growing chorus of governors who reject the Obamacare power grab. Neither a ‘state’ exchange nor the expansion of Medicaid under this program would result in better ‘patient protection’ or in more ‘affordable care.’ They would only make Texas a mere appendage of the federal government when it comes to health care," Perry went on to say.

Dr. Sara Austin is among those Texas physicians who no longer accept Medicaid patients into their practice. The Austin neurologist cites reduced reimbursement rates from the government that she says no longer make it worth her while, business-wise.

“I think the state has a better chance of making a program that serves more people better than the federal government. We’re Texas. We know how Texas works, you know and what we need,” Dr. Austin said.

“There’s one in four Texans that don’t have health insurance. Texas has to do something about that, but I just don’t think Medicaid – or Medicaid the way it’s written, is not going to be the thing to do," Austin added.

Anne Dunkelberg, at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, says Perry’s decision was one the Legislature needs to make as a whole.

“We’ve had the worst uninsured rate in the country for close to 20 years now and what Texans really need is less politics around health care and real solutions,” Dunkelberg said.

Gov. Perry appeared on Fox News Channel Monday morning. During his interview, he compared expanding Medicaid to putting more people on the Titanic.

The Texas Democratic Party responded to Perry’s decision on Medicaid calling it "cruel" and "negligent."

"Rick Perry’s announcement is both cruel and negligent. No person with a speck of intelligence would turn down billions in federal dollars that would be a boon to our economy and help Texans. But then again this is Rick Perry. Rick Perry could’ve brought billions in federal dollars to Texas, reduced the rate of the uninsured and improved the quality of life for Texans. Rick Perry’s Texas solution is to let Texans stay ill and uninsured. That is not a health care plan. Once again Perry is putting partisan political pandering in front of the interests of Texas."

You can watch Gov. Perry’s interview on Fox News below.

You can read a copy of the letter to Sec. Sebelius below.

Straus: Stop accounting tricks

House Speaker Joe Straus called for truth in budgeting, Monday, asking lawmakers to make sure the fees paid by Texans go to their intended purposes. Straus says the long, accepted practice of diverting fees generated for specific purposes to certify the state budget, instead of being spent on their intended purpose has to stop.

For decades those fees have been used as part of "funds consolidation," an accounting trick meant to balance the budget.

"It’s been a long, accepted practice in good times and in bad times, and there’s never going to be an easy time to deal with this," Straus said.

Straus asked a House subcommittee on appropriations to consider how to make the budget process more transparent.

"I’m not saying today that we need to cut $5 billion to straighten this out. What I am saying is that we should be honest in our budgeting and we should collect fees for their intended purpose or stop collecting them," Straus said.

According to Straus, lawmakers have stockpiled nearly $5 billion in dedicated accounts to balance the budget. Examples include fees charged to drunk drivers that are supposed to go to hospital trauma centers. Instead of spending that money, lawmakers keep it in an account where it can be used to balance the budget.

Texas Hospital Association spokesperson Denise Rose says because hospitals do not receive the full amount, each year there’s a possibility of less care, especially in rural areas that can’t keep centers going on their own dime.

"Our half, we’ve gotten portions appropriated, but never the full amount," Rose said. "It’s a chunk of money that’s helpful to a lot of communities, and I think it just increases the strain on hospital facilities and the safety nets and will end up being passed down in some form or fashion."

In a statement Straus said, "This move toward greater transparency will require discipline and tough choices, but I am confident that the House is up to the challenge. In the end, Texans will have a budget that is fairer, simpler and more straightforward."

Austin State Senator Kirk Watson, who championed the Honesty Agenda during the last legislative session, said he is pleased with the call for transparency by the speaker.

"I’m very encouraged by the Speaker’s comments today on the vital issue of ending the diversion of dedicated funds – taxes or fees that Texans pay for specific purposes such as parks, hospitals, and utility bill relief, but that instead are used to certify the budget," Watson said in a press release. "We need to start working on these reforms right now, especially given the budget uncertainties we know we will face next year. And I will work with the Speaker and any other public official in Texas to truly reform the system and ensure taxpayers’ money is used for its intended purpose."

TV campaigns begin in SD 25 runoff

Donna Campbell released her first television campaign ad Monday. Campbell’s campaign calls the ad "a positive spot," in a state Senate campaign that got ugly leading up to the primary. However, most of the mud was slung by former Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones and incumbent Senator Jeff Wentworth.

The ad, titled "Called to Serve" began airing in Austin and San Antonio Monday morning. In it Campbell, an emergency room doctor, wears a doctor’s coat and speaks to a patient in a hospital bed.

"For too long career politicians have put a band-aid on our state budget. That’s not going to fly," Campbell says in the ad.

Sen. Wentworth also released a TV ad on Monday. Wentworth’s, called "Relentless Problem Solver," is focused on his record in the Texas Senate.

"Jeff Wentworth is constantly fighting for new roads to deal with our exploding population. He hates traffic jams," the ad says.

It goes on to tout his record on the state water crisis, with state Rep. Doug Miller saying various state water agencies are now working together, thanks to Wentoworth.

You can watch both of the ads below.

Report: Cruz internal poll shows 9-point lead over Dewhurst

Ted Cruz’s campaign is claiming a big lead in the Republican US Senate race, with just three weeks to go before runoff election day. According to Roll Call, Cruz led Lt. Governor David Dewhurst by nine points in a recent internal poll. Roll Call also reports sources close to Dewhurst say their polling is quite different, and that their candidate holds a comfortable lead over Cruz.

In the cited poll, 49 percent of 750 likely Republican runoff election voters say they’re voting for Cruz, while 40 percent support Dewhurst. 11 percent haven’t decided. The poll was conducted June 24-26.

"Those within the Cruz camp contend that the jump in Cruz’s polling and name identification is because of the politically engaged nature of the respondents who indicated their intention to vote in the July 31 runoff," Abby Livingston of Roll Call writes.

Quorum Report: Michael Williams ‘viable contender’ for Education Commissioner

Courtesy: Williams for Texas

Michael Williams, the former Railroad Commission chairman who is well known for his affinity for bow ties, could be the next Commissioner of Education. A story in the Quorum Report says Williams has emerged as a "viable contender" to replace Robert Scott. Monday was Scott’s last day at the Texas Education Agency.

Williams recently lost the Republican primary for Congressional district 25. There were more than 10 candidates in the crowded field, Roger Williams and Wes Riddle are in a runoff for that district. Williams resigned from the Railroad Commission in 2011. He was appointed to an open seat on the Railroad Commission in 1998 by then-Governor George W. Bush.

The Quorum Report notes that Rep. Wayne Christian has been promoting State Board of Education member Charlie Garza to replace Scott.