US Senate

Texas lawmakers weighing Syria vote

Updated: As Congress prepares to vote to authorize military action in Syria, Capital Tonight is tracking how Texas’ Congressional delegation plans to vote.

Below is our breakdown of where lawmakers stand:

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R) – NO
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R) – NO
  • Rep. Michael McCaul (R) – LEANING AGAINST
  • Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) – UNDECIDED
  • Rep. Lamar Smith (R) – NO
  • Rep. Roger Williams (R) – NO
  • Rep. John Carter (R) – NO
  • Rep. Pete Sessions (R) – AWAITING RESPONSE
  • Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) – LEANING AGAINST
  • Rep. Steve Stockman (R) – NO

Mixed reaction to Holder’s comments on Texas voting laws

Texas political leaders are commenting on remarks made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder regarding Texas voting laws.

Holder told members of the National Urban League on Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice will ask a federal court to require Texas to ask for permission before changing its election laws. The move follows a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that essentialy eliminated the use of a pre-clerance provision of the Voting Rights Act for states with a history of discrimination.

“Once again, the Obama Administration is demonstrating utter contempt for our country’s system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution,” Republican Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement released in response. “This end-run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process.”

Democratic State Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston had a different take on Holder’s announcement.

“I applaud Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to join the lawsuit that would require Texas to submit all voting law changes for preclearance for the next decade,” Ellis said in his own statement released to the media.  “Anyone who thinks Texas doesn’t need continued oversight simply hasn’t been paying attention.”

Ellis added that, in his view, Texas has clearly shown a repeated and documented history of discrimination against minority voters, pointing to last year when he said Texas was singled out as the only state to pass redistricting maps which were deliberately discriminatory.

“This is hopefully just the first step,” Ellis said.  “Congress needs to take action [to] revamp the Voting Rights Act to create a formula which takes into account current and historical discrimination and bias while meeting the requirements the Supreme Court has set out.  Otherwise, the voting rights of millions of Americans are in peril.”

Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was also quick to respond to Holder’s comments.

“By first going around the voters and now the Supreme Court, Attorney General Holder and President Obama’s intentions are readily transparent,” Cornyn said in a released statement. ” This decision has nothing to do with protecting voting rights and everything to do with advancing a partisan political agenda. Texans should not — and will not — stand for the continued bullying of our state by the Obama Administration.”

Capital Tonight: More political fallout after abortion bill filibuster

Perry vs. Wendy

Gov. Rick Perry is giving his take on Tuesday’s failed bid to pass three bills before the special session deadline.

Speaking at the National Right to Life convention in Dallas, Perry talked about Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster, which effectively killed abortion restrictions he’d been pushing for. He referred to the night’s events as the “hijacking of the democratic process,” then made a comment about Senator Davis herself that some say went too far.

Going after Dewhurst

Sen. Dan Patrick is looking to move up the political ladder. He announced his bid Thursday as the “authentic conservative” candidate for lieutenant governor. It’s a move that could be seen as part of a bigger backlash against the current lieutenant governor.

After the Filibuster

Plus, immigration reform got a long-awaited vote in Congress, but despite the claims of both U.S. Senators from Texas, some local activists say the border security measures go too far.

Capital Tonight: Turning dollars into water

Lawmakers are getting serious about the state’s water deficit.

By a vote of 144-3, the Texas House voted to use $2 billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund (known as the Rainy Day Fund) to finance much needed water projects.


Texas experienced the state’s worst draught on record in 2011, and many of the effects are still being felt. In light of those conditions, the state’s Water Development Board has recommended a plan that would cost $53 billion to implement. House Bill 4 would use the $2 billion as a starting point to prioritize infrastructure, reservoir construction and pipeline improvements.

Debating DOMA

The Supreme Court wrapped up arguments Wednesday afternoon on the Defense of Marriage Act, and supporters of overturning the law say they’re hopeful the outcome will be in their favor.

The 1996 Defense Of Marriage Act defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman, and prevents legally married same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits as heterosexual couples.

On Wednesday, the four liberal justices and swing-vote Anthony Kennedy appeared to question whether the act is constitutional.


Art of the Amendment

The path from creating a bill to having it become law is a lengthy process, and part of that path includes amendments.

We spoke to two former state lawmakers about that process, and the strategy behind it. 

Cruz, Holder spar over possibility of drone attacks on American soil

Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder exchanged heated words over the hypothetical use of drone strikes in the United States. The grilling came during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington today.

Senate Republicans have been pressuring the White House to provide information used by the Justice Department to justify the use of lethal drone strikes against terror suspects overseas. Today, the focus was on the possibility that the military might use drone technology to target suspects on American soil.

In a letter to Sen. Rand Paul earlier this week, Holder said the military has never carried out a drone strike on U.S. soil and has “no intention of doing so.” Holder stopped short, however, of ruling out the possibility. He pointed out that a president might be prompted to take such action in an extraordinary circumstance like the Pearl Harbor or September 11th attacks.

During testimony today, Sen. Cruz pressed Holder on the issue. He posed a hypothetical question to the Attorney General: “If an individual is sitting quietly at a cafe in the United States, in your legal judgement does the constitution allow a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil to be killed by a drone?”

You can view Holder’s response and the full exchange in the video below:

Cornyn calls for hearings on gun law enforcement

Sen. John Cornyn is hoping to use his spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee to push for stronger enforcement of federal gun laws. At a committee meeting today, Sen. Cornyn called for a hearding on the Department of Justice’s handling of enforcement. Afterward, we got a chance to ask Cornyn which specific laws he thought weren’t being enforced. One thing he mentioned was a state-level obligation to submit mental health data to a larger database.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned from some of these terrible tragedies, it’s that we need to get a better handle on people with mental health conditions who may end up committing these heinous acts of violence, and submitting this information by the state to the federal government so it can be included in background checks as an important part of that.”

You can see his full response by clicking on the video link below.

Sen. Cornyn explains ‘no’ vote on Kerry confirmation

Sen. John Cornyn is going on record about why he voted not to confirm Sen. John Kerry as Secretary of State. In a satellite interview, Cornyn explained that he knew Kerry’s confirmation would survive the Senate vote.

“But on all of the important issues, I can’t think of very many I agree with him on, and I thought it was appropriate to cast a “no” vote as a statement of my disagreement with him on those policies.”

Sen. Cornyn was one of three lawmakers to vote against Kerry’s confirmation. Fellow Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma were the other two. Kerry will replace Hillary Rodham Clinton once he is sworn in.

Watch Cornyn’s full statement by clicking the video link below.


Cruz introduces “Obamacare” repeal bill; admits it won’t pass

Sen. Ted Cruz is making good on a campaign promise.  Today, he introduced a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

Cruz admits, however, the Obama adminsitration’s health care law will likely remain on the books.

In an email statement, he said:

“Unfortunately, this bill will not pass in the current Congress, but I will continue working hard until we have the votes to repeal Obamacare in its entirety.  Obamacare was passed over the strong opposition of the American people, and it has already driven up the cost of health insurance and caused employers to drop their coverage.”

This is the first bill Sen. Cruz has filed since taking office in January.  It has 32 co-sponsors, including fellow Texan, Sen. John Cornyn.


Cruz names Chip Roy Chief of Staff

In one of his first major staffing decisions, Sen.-elect Ted Cruz has named Chip Roy as his chief of staff.

Roy is an attorney. He worked as a senior advisor on Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. Before that, Perry appointed him as director of State-Federal Relations.

In an email statement today, Cruz said:

“Chip brings an incredible range of talents to the table. His experience in the U.S. Senate combined with his years of service as a federal prosecutor and work in state government, campaigns and the private sector make him uniquely qualified to serve Texas in this role. Moreover, he is a proud Texan and a principled movement conservative who was an early supporter of my campaign. I have known him for years and I am grateful to him and his family for agreeing to join me in this important job.”

Gov. Perry also weighed in on Cruz’s choice. He issued a statements saying:

“Senator-elect Cruz’s selection of Chip is great news for Texas. While I will miss his trusted counsel and consistent voice for liberty, he will take that much needed voice to Washington and serve Ted and our great state well.”

Ted Cruz selected to serve as NRSC Vice Chair

Updated to add Ted Cruz statement

Sen.-elect Ted Cruz will serve as the Vice Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. His selection was announced today; the same day his fellow Senator John Cornyn was elected Minority Whip.

As Vice Chair, Cruz will work to help get republicans elected to the Senate during the 2014 elections. He will serve alongside Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. Portman was widely considered to seek the chairman spot. He instead opted for a lesser role in the committee. Both will serve under Chairman Sen. Jerry Moran.

Cruz issued this statement, following today’s announcement.

"I’m honored by this selection," Cruz said. "Our country faces grave fiscal and economic challenges, and I’m very glad to have the opportunity to do everything I can to help retire Harry Reid as Majority Leader. It’s critical that Constitutional conservatives have a strong voice within the NRSC so that together we may build upon lessons learned from this election cycle and elect strong candidates who are committed to pro-growth economics and restraining the job-killing growth of the federal government."

Sen. John Cornyn, who served as the NRSC chairman this election cycle, issued this statement congratulating Cruz:

“A strong conservative and gifted campaigner, Ted has quickly proven himself to be among the next generation of leaders of the Republican party and I know our candidates will be in good hands under his leadership.”