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Henry Cuellar

Henry Cuellar does his thing

And it’s annoying as usual.

Rep. Henry Cuellar

A new report has left many Democratic House insiders perplexed and frustrated with one of the most powerful Texas Democrats in Congress: U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

Politico reported Tuesday that Cuellar had”invited supporters to a breakfast fundraiser” Tuesday morning for U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock. The invitation was “sent from a Cuellar political staffer,” according to the report.

“Although I was not a host of the event, I was honored to attend as I typically do for colleagues who visit my district,” Cuellar said in a statement. “Judge Carter is a dear friend and trusted colleague with whom I work on Appropriations. He is knowledgeable and supportive of issues important to South Texas. In today’s climate, more than ever, friendship is more powerful than partisanship.”

Cuellar, who has served in the U.S. House since 2005, has long had a reputation as one of the chamber’s most conservative Democrats. But in both party’s caucuses, actively helping a member of the other party is a highly frowned upon practice.

[…]

Like all other U.S. House members, Cuellar’s party leadership assigns him a set amount of money to raise for their campaign arm each cycle. The House GOP campaign arm has a similar practice. The committees then direct the money for various purposes, but the main one is television advertising in competitive House races around the country.

In 2017, the the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee assigned Cuellar dues that amounted to $200,000. According to records obtained by the Tribune, Cuellar had paid $400,000 to the committee this cycle as of July. Those dues will go to a massive pot of DCCC money that will, in part, fund ads to support Democratic House candidates – including possibly Hegar if she gains traction in the run up to Election Day.

Cuellar’s gonna Cuellar, he’s been that way since he ousted Ciro Rodriguez in a contentious primary back in 2008. And while Beto O’Rourke has faced some criticism for his ties to Rep. Will Hurd, there’s a world of difference between not lining up behind a fellow member of your party, and actively supporting the election efforts of a member of the other team.

Hegar’s thoughts on this are here. Like I said, Cuellar’s going to do his thing, and to be fair he does deserve credit for ponying up to the DCCC as he has done. Not all members of the caucus do that, including some who can easily afford it. That said, given the energy this year for taking on incumbents who have fallen short in one way or another, one can imagine a more spirited primary challenge for Cuellar in 2020. He’s not going to change who and what he is until he’s given a good reason to believe he needs to change.

The southern segment of the proposed Oklahoma City-South Texas passenger rail line

There’s more to it than connecting San Antonio with Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth.

TexasOklahomaPassengerRailStudyRoutes

Two potential South Texas routes were selected for further study, according to [Rep. Henry] Cuellar. The first would originate in San Antonio and travel south outside of existing transportation corridors to a station near the Laredo-Columbia Solidarity Bridge. That route would then cross on a new railway bridge to join a new rail line which would continue to Monterrey, Mexico.

Cuellar said that route would have the potential for high-speed rail service, with trains traveling at speeds of 180 to 220 miles per hour.

The second route would begin in San Antonio and travel southeast to Alice. At Alice, the route would divide into three legs. The first leg would travel to San Diego, Texas and then to the Laredo area. The second leg would travel south along abandoned railroad tracks to McAllen and east to Harlingen and Brownsville, while the third would travel east along the KCS Railway to Corpus Christi.

Once the Tier 1 study is completed, interested developers could conduct a Tier 2 study for preferred routes. That study would provide project-level analyses, detailed design, alignments and cost refinements, Cuellar said.

More than 10 million people currently live along the 850-mile corridor under study. That population is expected to increase nearly 40 percent by 2035.

See here for the background. You can see the different options in the embedded map. The Monterrey option was a later addition to the project scope due to the high-speed possibility, for which private investment is also in play. I’m very interested in seeing how this goes.

US-Mexico high speed rail?

What goes north can also go south.

Like this but with fewer mountains

A high-speed rail line connecting San Antonio and Monterrey, Mexico, could be less than a decade away from welcoming its first passengers, according to federal and Texas officials who met with Mexican officials in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to discuss the project.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-San Antonio, hosted the meeting in which Texas and Mexican officials offered a joint presentation to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx about the project, and Cuellar said Foxx was receptive. It was the third meeting between U.S. and Mexican officials related to the project, Cuellar said, following a meeting in the summer and another in October.

“From the Mexican side, they are very interested,” Cuellar said. “From the Texas side, they are very interested.”

Supporters say the rail line, if completed, could move passengers from San Antonio to Monterrey in two hours. The trip takes nearly five hours traveling by car.

Cuellar said he became interested in such a project after learning that the Texas Department of Transportation had received $5.6 million in federal funds last year to study possible rail projects between Oklahoma City and South Texas.

[…]

Both Mexican and U.S. officials envision a large portion of the project’s funding coming from the private sector, perhaps from a single company investing in the project in both countries.

We are familiar with one private investor for high speed rail in Texas, and we heard about that FTA grant recently. Obviously, all this is a long way from happening, but if both do happen – I’m reasonably confident about the Houston-Dallas line – then it would make a lot more sense to connect them, since that would have more value than two separate, disconnected lines. That would mean finishing the rest of the so-called Texas Triangle, which would then have offshoots continuing on to Oklahoma City and Monterrey. That would be pretty cool, don’t you think? The Highwayman and the Express News have more.

The remaining holdouts on marriage equality

Last week, we talked about the Democratic members of the Legislature that had voted for the anti-gay marriage Constitutional amendment of 2005, and where they stood now. Along those lines, The Hill checks on the situation in Congress.

Eleven House Democrats are on record as opposing gay marriage, even as support within their party for the issue builds.

Another nine haven’t taken definitive positions in support of or against gay marriage.

[…]

Nine Democrats who voted in 2011 to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits to gay couples haven’t publicly changed their positions: Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Gene Green (Texas), Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Nick Rahall (W.Va.).

Another two freshmen Democrats voiced opposition to same-sex marriage during their 2012 campaigns: Reps. Bill Enyart (Ill.) and Pete Gallego (Texas).

The nine Democrats who haven’t taken a definitive position on gay marriage are Reps. Jim Costa (Calif.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Cedric Richmond (La.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), David Scott (Ga.), Terry Sewell (Ala.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.), Pete Visclosky (Ind.) and freshman Filemon Vela (Texas).

Five of these Democrats hail from districts that voted for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, and they are perennial GOP targets: Barrow, Matheson, McIntyre, Peterson and Rahall. Obama narrowly carried Enyart’s district.

[…]

The Hill contacted all 20 offices this week as the Supreme Court considered two gay marriage cases and several Democratic senators made headlines by announcing their support for gay marriage.

Matheson, Rahall, and Gallego’s offices said they continue to oppose legalizing gay marriage.

Green said the choice should be left to the individual states but didn’t address DOMA, which he’d voted to uphold, or say whether he personally supported gay marriage.

It should be noted that Romney carried Rep. Gallego’s district, which makes his stance unsurprising, but still disappointing. I discussed the issue with Rep. Green when I interviewed him last year; he said he was thinking about it but “wasn’t there yet”. As for Rep. Cuellar, well, this is another example of why so many of us are regularly frustrated by him. There’s no political reason for him to maintain this stance. I hope someone follows up with Rep. Vela on this – his lightly-used official Facebook page is here if you’re interested – because you don’t get to not have an answer. Favoring marriage equality is now the almost unanimous position among Democratic Senators, some of whom represent pretty red states. My sincere advice to Reps. Gallego, Green, Cuellar, and Vela is not to be the last Democrat to get right on this. History only waits so long. Link via Texpatriate.

Precinct analysis: Congressional overs and unders

To wrap up my look at 2012 versus 2008 results for all the new districts, here’s how the 36 Congressional districts compared.

Dist McCain Pct Obama08 Pct Romney Pct Obama12 Pct RIdx DIdx ============================================================================== 01 178,520 68.85% 78,918 30.44% 181,833 71.49% 69,857 27.47% 1.04 0.90 02 150,665 61.78% 91,087 37.35% 157,094 62.93% 88,751 35.55% 1.02 0.95 03 165,158 61.46% 100,440 37.37% 175,383 64.16% 93,290 34.13% 1.04 0.91 04 180,772 69.71% 75,910 29.27% 189,455 73.95% 63,521 24.79% 1.06 0.85 05 137,698 61.79% 83,216 37.34% 137,239 64.49% 73,085 34.35% 1.04 0.92 06 148,503 57.03% 109,854 42.19% 146,985 57.87% 103,444 40.72% 1.01 0.97 07 140,692 58.73% 96,866 40.44% 143,631 59.89% 92,499 38.57% 1.02 0.95 08 171,408 73.02% 61,357 26.14% 195,735 76.97% 55,271 21.74% 1.05 0.83 09 44,520 23.42% 144,707 76.12% 39,392 21.15% 145,332 78.01% 0.90 1.02 10 148,867 56.17% 112,866 42.59% 159,714 59.06% 104,839 38.77% 1.05 0.91 11 184,238 75.90% 56,145 23.13% 182,403 79.10% 45,081 19.55% 1.04 0.85 12 161,030 63.61% 89,718 35.44% 166,992 66.77% 79,147 31.65% 1.05 0.89 13 189,600 76.88% 54,855 22.24% 184,090 80.16% 42,518 18.51% 1.04 0.83 14 139,304 57.03% 102,902 42.12% 147,151 59.32% 97,824 39.44% 1.04 0.94 15 61,282 41.84% 83,924 57.3% 62,883 41.48% 86,940 57.35% 0.99 1.00 16 58,764 34.59% 109,387 64.39% 54,315 34.44% 100,993 64.03% 1.00 0.99 17 135,738 57.95% 95,884 40.94% 134,521 60.29% 84,243 37.76% 1.04 0.92 18 45,069 22.89% 150,733 76.57% 44,991 22.81% 150,129 76.11% 1.00 0.99 19 168,553 71.22% 66,122 27.94% 160,060 73.55% 54,451 25.02% 1.03 0.90 20 80,667 40.64% 115,579 58.23% 74,540 39.59% 110,663 58.77% 0.97 1.01 21 178,531 56.42% 133,581 42.21% 188,240 59.76% 119,220 37.85% 1.06 0.90 22 142,073 60.45% 91,137 38.78% 158,452 62.11% 93,582 36.68% 1.03 0.95 23 95,679 49.27% 96,871 49.88% 99,654 50.67% 94,386 47.99% 1.03 0.96 24 152,453 58.41% 105,822 40.54% 150,547 60.42% 94,634 37.98% 1.03 0.94 25 153,998 56.05% 117,402 42.73% 162,278 59.89% 102,433 37.80% 1.07 0.88 26 166,877 64.18% 90,791 34.92% 177,941 67.59% 80,828 30.70% 1.05 0.88 27 133,839 58.95% 91,083 40.12% 131,800 60.46% 83,156 38.15% 1.03 0.95 28 65,066 40.97% 92,557 58.28% 65,372 38.65% 101,843 60.21% 0.94 1.03 29 41,843 37.04% 70,286 62.22% 37,909 32.99% 75,720 65.89% 0.89 1.06 30 47,144 21.07% 175,237 78.33% 43,333 19.64% 175,637 79.61% 0.93 1.02 31 135,601 55.80% 103,359 42.54% 144,634 59.36% 92,842 38.11% 1.06 0.90 32 147,226 55.05% 117,231 43.83% 146,420 56.97% 106,563 41.46% 1.03 0.95 33 40,290 30.64% 90,180 68.57% 32,641 27.09% 86,686 71.93% 0.88 1.05 34 58,707 39.06% 90,178 60.00% 57,303 38.28% 90,885 60.71% 0.98 1.01 35 62,764 35.47% 111,790 63.18% 58,007 34.59% 105,550 62.94% 0.98 1.00 36 165,899 69.45% 70,543 29.53% 175,850 73.05% 61,766 25.66% 1.05 0.87

The main thing that stands out is CD23, which went from plurality Obama in 2008 to a slight majority for Romney in 2012. That means that Rep. Pete Gallego joins State Rep. Craig Eiland and State Sen. Wendy Davis in the exclusive club of candidates who won in a district that their Presidential candidate lost. Not surprisingly, Rep. Gallego is a marked man for 2014. CD23 was one of the more strongly contested districts in the litigation as well as in the election, and it is likely to be modified further no matter what happens to the Voting Rights Act, so Rep. Gallego’s challenge next year may be different than it was this year. He’s clearly up to it, whatever it winds up being. Beyond that, the pattern witnessed elsewhere held here, as blue districts were generally bluer than before, while red districts were redder. Dems can still hope for (eventually) competitive races in CDs 06, 10, and 32, but the task is harder now than it would have been in 2008. As for CD14, you can see that the hurdle was just too high for Nick Lampson. Barring anything improbable, that district is unlikely to repeat as one featuring a race to watch.

One other thing I did in these races was compare the performances of the Congressional candidates with the Presidential candidates in their districts. Here are some of the more interesting results I found:

Dist Romney Pct Obama12 Pct R Cong Pct% D Cong Pct Winner ============================================================================== 02 157,094 62.93% 88,751 35.55% 159,664 64.81% 80,512 32.68% Poe 06 146,985 57.87% 103,444 40.72% 145,019 58.02% 98,053 39.23% Barton 07 143,631 59.89% 92,499 38.57% 142,793 60.80% 85,553 36.43% Culberson 10 159,714 59.06% 104,839 38.77% 159,783 60.51% 95,710 36.25% McCaul 14 147,151 59.32% 97,824 39.44% 131,460 53.47% 109,697 44.62% Weber 20 74,540 39.59% 110,663 58.77% 62,376 33.50% 119,032 63.93% Castro 21 188,240 59.76% 119,220 37.85% 187,015 60.54% 109,326 35.39% L Smith 22 158,452 62.11% 93,582 36.68% 160,668 64.03% 80,203 31.96% Olson 23 99,654 50.67% 94,386 47.99% 87,547 45.55% 96,676 50.30% Gallego 25 162,278 59.89% 102,433 37.80% 154,245 58.44% 98,827 37.44% R Williams 27 131,800 60.46% 83,156 38.15% 120,684 56.75% 83,395 39.21% Farenthold 28 65,372 38.65% 101,843 60.21% 49,309 29.76% 112,456 67.88% Cuellar 31 144,634 59.36% 92,842 38.11% 145,348 61.27% 82,977 34.98% Carter 32 146,420 56.97% 106,563 41.46% 146,653 58.27% 99,288 39.45% Sessions 35 58,007 34.59% 105,550 62.94% 52,894 32.02% 105,626 63.94% Doggett 36 175,850 73.05% 61,766 25.66% 165,405 70.73% 62,143 26.57% Stockman

You can mostly break this down into three groups. The first is the Overacheivers, the Congressional candidates that clearly drew at least some crossover votes. On that list are Reps. Ted Poe, Joaquin Castro, Pete Olson, Pete Gallego, and Henry Cuellar. Olson, one presumes, benefited from being opposed by LaRouchie nutcase Keisha Rogers. We’ll have to wait to see how he’ll do against a normal opponent, which one hopes will be this time around. Castro and Cuellas can point to their numbers as evidence for statewide viability someday, if and when they choose to make such a run. Gallego obviously had to be on this list, or he wouldn’t be Rep. Gallego. I guess the Republicans knew what their were doing when they tried to pull all those shenanigans to protect Quico Canseco, because he really did need the help. As for Ted Poe, I got nothing. He’s not a “moderate”, and he’s not a heavyweight on policy or in bringing home the bacon as far as I know, so I don’t have a ready explanation for his success here. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments.

The second group is what I’d call Tougher Than They Look. Notice how Republican incumbents in the least-red districts suffered no dropoff in support from Romney, while their Democratic opponents did? I’m talking about Reps. Joe Barton, John Culberson, Mike McCaul, Lamar Smith, John Carter, and Pete Sessions; you can also throw Democrat Lloyd Doggett onto the list. Whether by accident or design, these Republicans may be harder to knock off down the line if and when their districts get bluer. Culberson is the oddball in this group, because he greatly underperformed in 2006 and 2008. I suspect he benefited from redistricting, in particular from losing some inner Loop precincts, as well as the general trend away from crossover voting, but we’ll see if this was a one-time thing or not.

Finally, there’s the Underachievers, who lost crossover votes to their opponents. Ex-Rep Quico Canseco is the poster child, but Reps. Randy Weber, Blake Farenthold, and Steve Stockman keep him company. Weber may get a mulligan, since he’s unlikely to face an opponent like Lampson again. Farenthold’s presence is intriguing. He’s a ridiculous person, who won in a fluke year and who needed a lot of help in redistricting, but a look at this result suggests that he just might be vulnerable to the right opponent. If the Battlegound Texas folks want to try some things out on a smaller scale, let me suggest CD27 as a proving ground. Finally, Stockman shows that even in a deep red district, nuttiness has some limits. Too bad it’s not enough to affect a November election, but maybe there’s a chance that a slightly less mortifying Republican could win next March.

Counties may try to expand Medicaid on their own

The Washington Post reports on the efforts of county and hospital district officials in some of Texas’ largest counties to bypass Rick Perry’s refusal to expand Medicaid for Texas and seek approval to do it themselves for their own jurisdictions.

It's constitutional - deal with it

George Hernandez Jr., CEO of University Health System in San Antonio, came up with the idea of the alternative, county-run Medicaid expansion, and said he has been discussing it with other officials in his county, Bexar. “They are all willing,” he said. He added that he has also been talking up the proposal with officials in other big counties, such as those including Houston and Dallas, and is optimistic they’ll support the idea.

Robert Earley, CEO of JPS Health Network, the public hospital system serving Tarrant County, which includes the Fort Worth area, said he could see the idea catching on.

[…]

Under the federal health law, the Medicaid expansion would begin in 2014, and would cover people with incomes of up to 133 percent of the poverty level. The federal government would pay the entire bill for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter. If there were a county-backed expansion in Texas, the local hospital districts would tax residents to come up with the 10 percent state share. Texans living in counties that participated in the expansion would be eligible for Medicaid under the less restrictive rules, while those living in the rest of the state would not.

An official from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment on the idea, but said, “We look forward to continuing our dialogue with states . . . as we work to meet the law’s goals.”

Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, said that the idea, despite its challenges, “is certainly not far-fetched.”

Weil noted that there is precedent for a federal waiver of this type: After California declined to take advantage of a provision in the health-care law that allows states to accelerate their Medicaid expansion, the leaders of several counties got permission from the Obama administration to do so on their own.

The Texas proposal, of course, represents more than a temporary bridge to statewide expansion; it could be a permanent arrangement.

“And federal authorities might feel differently about that,” Weil said. “But as a general proposition, could you have different counties with different eligibility standards? I think the answer would be yes.”

We first heard about this a few weeks ago, after the Perry announcement and the sheepish admission by outgoing HHSC Chair Tom Suehs that Medicaid expansion would not cost nearly as much as his agency had first claimed. It’s an interesting approach, one that I could see being allowed to happen, and I admire creativity and perseverance of the officials who are pursuing it, but let’s be clear that it’s at best a kludge designed to work around a bad decision. For one thing, it cannot possibly be more efficient to have up to 254 potentially different standards for eligibility in Texas than just one statewide standard. For another, while I expect that many counties would do this if they are permitted to do so, some others will choose instead to be free-riding parasites on their neighbors; this is another reason why a statewide solution is better. Given the choice between no Medicaid expansion and a patchwork of Medicaid expansion done by the counties, I’ll gladly take the latter – it’s way better than the status quo, and could easily wind up covering a significant portion of the large uninsured population in Texas, many of which are now served by these overburdened hospital districts. But again, it’s a patch that’s being applied to a strictly self-inflicted wound.

And this approach now has a champion in Congress.

Congressman Henry Cuellar is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if Texas counties can bypass their state government in order to expand Medicaid coverage.

The Laredo Democrat says he supports giving counties the choice. He said he set up a teleconference call with HHS after reading an article in the Washington Post that said some of Texas’ largest counties want to make an end run around Gov. Rick Perry’s opposition to the expanded Medicaid program included in President Obama’s health-care law.

“I will be talking to HHS next week. I want to know if it is up to the Texas Legislature to decide if counties can do their own thing or whether it is something we can make happen at the federal level. I want to do all I can to give counties the choice,” Cuellar said, in an interview with the Guardian in Rio Grande City on Tuesday.

[…]

Cuellar recalled his time in the state legislature when he wanted to give Texas counties the opportunity to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program. “We do not do as good a job with the CHIP program as other states do and I wanted to negotiate with HHS to give our counties the chance to expand it. I was opposed by the other states. They understood that if Texas sent CHIP money back, they could get some of it,” Cuellar said.

The Washington Post story focused on the larger Texas counties that have large public hospitals and hospital districts. Many border counties do not. Asked if border counties could bypass the state government in order to secure expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA, Cuellar said he is going to ask HSS if such a maneuver is possible. “I want to see if the border counties can group together. I want to see if we can give them an option,” Cuellar said.

Again, given the constraints of Rick Perry’s obstinacy and antipathy towards non-rich people, that’s a great idea. Any opportunity to bypass the Lege should be grasped with both hands. Make that option available to any group of counties that don’t have a hospital district but want to do right by their taxpayers, too. If there’s any justice, Texas would achieve near-complete coverage by this method. It will probably take something like that to change the status quo. It’s still a stupid way to do business, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

There’s one remaining question that I have about all this, and that’s what Harris County intends to do. Bexar County has been the driving force behind this movement. Harris has the same need and a much bigger population, so its participation would be a big deal. I placed a call and was informed that Harris County Hospital District CEO David Lopez is “not granting interviews” on this topic at this time. Disappointing, but I suppose the politics of this are rather tricky for them, and they want to get as many ducks in a row as possible before deciding on a course of action. If you’re an officeholder in Harris County and you like the idea of providing coverage to the million or so uninsured residents of this county, I suggest you bring this up to Mr. Lopez at your next opportunity. You never know who else might be talking to him if you aren’t.

More than four, please

Not good enough.

On the right side of history

A majority of House Democrats have signed a brief to the Supreme Court opposing the Defense of Marriage Act (widely known as DOMA) — but not a majority of Texas Democrats.

Only four of the state’s nine Democratic House members joined the “friends of the court” brief. They were Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas.

As expected, none of the Texas Republicans were among the 130 signers of the brief. But five Democrats joined them on the sidelines — Al Green and Gene Green of Houston, Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Ruben Hinojosa of Mercedes and Silvestre Reyes of El Paso.

Sadly, some of those names are not unexpected. Gene Green and Henry Cuellar do not have particularly good records on marriage quality. Silvestre Reyes‘ record is more mixed, as both he and Al Green are co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act. (I couldn’t find anything relevant on Ruben Hinojosa in a cursory search.) In this day and age, with the President on board and the DNC set to follow, there’s no good reason not to oppose this anachronistic relic of a less enlightened time. Get on board, y’all.

Interim map hearing tomorrow

Big day in San Antonio tomorrow.

Mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map

Groups involved in the state’s redistricting fight were ordered by a San Antonio federal court Friday to continue negotiations through the weekend over interim redistricting maps for the 2012 election.

The court order comes before a key Tuesday hearing when the three-judge panel will hear arguments about how the state’s interim maps should be redrawn.

If the groups can’t reach a deal before the hearing, they’ll continue negotiations in the courtroom.

The order also contained a footnote that may indicate the judges are interested in hearing arguments on whether the Voting Rights Act was violated when the Republican-dominated Legislature altered the Austin-based congressional district of Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

“They want to know why Doggett’s district is protected,” said Michael Li, an elections law attorney, who has paid close attention to the redistricting battle.

He said the footnote could mean trouble for a coalition congressional district in the Fort Worth area that was created by the San Antonio court.

That hearing was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was moved up a day, with the possibility that it could continue on Wednesday. The court had issued an order on Friday urging the parties to keep talking, saying it not had ruled out any compromise yet, including the Abbott map. You can see all of the parties’ briefs regarding the interim maps here. This Statesman story gives you a good idea why consensus is so hard to find.

In other developments related to that map, the Perez plaintiffs said that they too had been excluded from the negotiations that Abbott had, apparently with just the MALDEF plaintiffs. The Justice Department lays out its problems with the existing maps, noting that the DC court found evidence of discriminatory intent with several districts, and said that the San Antonio court cannot waive the requirement that counties obtain preclearance for new precinct boundaries, but that an expedited review could still allow an April primary. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who was criticized by his Democratic colleagues for signing off on the Abbott map, filed an advisory saying he thinks a deal that protects Rep. Lloyd Doggett is still possible. Rep. Joe Barton filed his own advisory, which included a new Congressional map proposal, telling the San Antonio court it needs to wait till the DC court issues its ruling. Barring a settlement to which all parties agree, I think this is the right thing for the San Antonio court to do as well. You can kiss an April primary good-bye in that case, so maybe that’s an incentive for Abbott to actually listen to the other plaintiffs and work something out that truly is fair and acceptable. If Abbott wants to give Rick Santorum a chance to surge across Texas in a meaningful way, he knows who to call.

Environmental report card for Congressional Texas

From the Inbox:

The Texas League of Conservation Voters highlighted Texas’ leadership and failures on national environmental issues, based on today’s release of the League of Conservation Voters 2011 National Environmental Scorecard.

The 2011 National Environmental Scorecard grades Congress’ work as the ‘most anti-environmental session of the U.S. House of Representatives in history.’

“We’re fortunate to have a great champion for the environment in Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin). Sadly, the same cannot be said for Rep. Cuellar (D-Laredo) who far too often sided against the environment and against public health.  His votes on global warming, pesticide pollution and offshore drilling safety placed Rep. Cuellar much more in line with the Republican House majority and corporate polluters than for the constituents who elected him,” said David Weinberg, Executive Director of the Texas League of Conservation Voters.

The 2011 National Environmental Scorecard includes 11 Senate and a record 35 House votes on issues ranging from public health protections to clean energy to land and wildlife conservation.

This year, 31 senators earned a perfect 100 percent score, while in the House 24 members earned a perfect 100 percent score.  Rep. Doggett notched the highest score in the Texas delegation with 97 percent.  Rep. Cuellar earned the lowest score among the Texas Democratic delegation with 51 percent.  The average Texas House Republican score was 7 percent.

In the Senate, 13 senators earned an appalling 0 percent score, while in the House four members earned a 0 percent score. The Texas Senate delegation rounded out the bottom of the barrel among Senate delegations by state with an abysmal 9 percent score; only four other states’ Senate delegation scored lower.

For over 40 years, the National Environmental Scorecard issued by LCV has been the nationally accepted yardstick used to rate members of Congress on environmental, public health and energy issues. The full 2011 National Environmental Scorecard can be found at www.lcv.org/scorecard.

The Texas League of Conservation Voters issues its own scorecard on state lawmakers. Its 2011 scorecard can be found online at www.tlcv.org/scorecards.

The scorecard itself can be found here. In fairness to Rep. Cuellar, his 2011 score was an 88, though his lifetime mark of 57 is the lowest among the Democrats from Texas. It must also be noted that 20 of the 23 Texas Republicans in Congress scored lower than 10. The great irony is that one of the three Congressional Rs to score above 10% was none other than Smokey Joe Barton. He, along with Reps. Kay Granger and Bill Flores, achieved the lofty score of 11% by voting correctly on four of the 35 bills the LCV tracked. I never thought I’d see the day when Smokey Joe would be the greenest Republican in Texas. Anyway, go read the report to see what the bills of interest were and who did what. Forrest Wilder has more.

While we wait for another deal, if there is one

Michael Li reminds us what comes next.

Waiting for a map like you, to come into my life

The San Antonio court has scheduled a hearing on interim maps and the election schedule for next Wednesday, February 15, with briefs on a broad range of issues due this Friday.

That gives the parties a week to continue talking, and it is possible further consensus could be reached. If there isn’t a consensus, the court will begin the process of drawing interim maps.

The state and the Republican Party of Texas have said that they think matters are far along enough that the court should be able to complete maps by February 20 and allow a primary to go forward on April 10 or April 17. However, there are some legal and logistical issues that still might prevent that (more here).

The RPT also has suggested April 24 as a primary date but, at the last hearing, there was some concern that day would prove to be unworkable because of the need to prepare for early voting in municipal and school board elections, which begins the following week.

If April doesn’t work, the most viable dates after that are May 29 and June 26.

You should of course be reading Texas Redistricting, but in case you’re not for some reason, here’s some additional reactions to the “deal”, from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the NAACP, MALC, and the Republican Party, which is clearly trying to sell it to its members. Here also are the post-trial briefs from the preclearance trial, for which we’re all waiting on a ruling.

Elsewhere on the interwebs, Politico reports that some of Rep. Henry Cuellar’s colleagues aren’t too happy with him for his endorsement of the Abbott “deal”.

Democrats are stunned that Cuellar would negotiate with Republicans, let alone agree to a map they argue would cost the party several seats and rob minorities of the chance to maximize their gains in the House of Representatives.

“He’s a deplorable, dishonest person. He’s proven it time and time again in redistricting,” said Matt Angle, founder of the Lone Star Project, a group aimed at supporting Democratic candidates in Texas. “I know it sounds over the top, but it’s true.”

The compromise map that Abbott and Cuellar agreed to is very similar to one that the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature approved last year, which would have positioned Democrats to win only 11 of the state’s 36 congressional seats.

Democrats had objected to the Legislature-drawn map, arguing in federal court that it doesn’t sufficiently recognize the state’s booming minority population. Democrats want an interim plan that more closely resembles one drawn by a San Antonio-based court that would have made it likely for the party to hold 13 of the 36 seats. The Supreme Court struck down the interim plan last month.

Let me interrupt here to say that I don’t know what numbers Politico is going by. By my count, the legislatively-drawn map, was 26-10 GOP, with CD23 being lean GOP and CD14 being potentially competitive, while the Abbott map was likely to have at least 11 Dem seats, with CD23 being tossup/lean Dem, and CD14 being lean GOP, though that may be more the influence of the declared candidate than the map itself. If all you knew were the straight R and D numbers, it’s better than what the Dems started with, albeit not quite as good as what they almost had. Obviously, there’s more to it than that, and I don’t care for this deal because I think it’s the low end of what is possible, but it’s not the worst thing in the world.

It hasn’t been unusual for Democrats to partner with Republicans on redistricting. With the GOP controlling much of line-drawing this go-around, Democrats across the country have forged alliances with Republicans to ensure they get favorable treatment in the redistricting process, which can make or break a member’s political fortunes.

Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chairman Trey Martinez Fischer called Cuellar’s agreement an effort by the congressman to finalize a rock-solid, South Central Texas-based district for himself to run in. But he argued it would have little impact on the final lines.

“I take Henry’s actions at face value,” said Fischer, who called Cuellar a friend. “The consequences of this agreement really don’t go beyond the confines of his district.”

Cuellar disputed the idea that he’s looking out for himself at others’ expense, pointing out that he’s been well-positioned to win reelection in each of the proposed maps. He said he felt no need to promote one plan over another to get a leg up.

Rather, he said he aimed to advance a plan that would help solidify a set of minority-held seats. On Monday, his office released a lengthy statement detailing how the plan would advance the interests of Hispanic and black candidates seeking House seats.

“To say I did this for my own interests is absolutely crazy,” Cuellar told POLITICO. “This has nothing to do with self-promotion. Anyone who says anything else is being dishonest with you.”

Rep. Cuellar has filed an advisory with the court, urging it to adopt the Abbott map. For what it’s worth, Smokey Joe Barton filed his own advisory saying that he “strongly objects to this proposed settlement”. So the bipartisanship goes both ways.

Anyway. BOR speculates why Abbott is pushing for a deal. I think there’s a lot of pressure on him, but it’s not clear to me that it’s all or even primarily in one direction. At the end of the day, redistricting is always more multidimensional than just R versus D. Prof. Murray provides some historical context to what’s going on. Finally, I got a request after the previous numbers post to include results from the 2008 Court of Criminal Appeals race for Position 3, in which Susan Strawn was the Democratic candidate. As this post is long enough already, I’ve put those numbers, which include a couple of State Rep districts I didn’t list before, beneath the fold.

UPDATE: Stace has a guest post from Joe Cardenas of Texas LULAC on why the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force likes the Abbott maps.

(more…)

Interim maps and the DC preclearance case

The federal court in San Antonio has been hearing arguments about proposed interim Congressional maps this week. Michael Li summarizes the plaintiffs’ case for why the map adopted by the Lege cannot be used, even as a starting point.

Right off the bat, the panel began by asking lawyers for the plaintiffs whether it would be possible to use uncontroversial portions of the state’s maps to form the core of the interim maps, citing the Panhandle as one example of an area where none of the plaintiff groups had alleged any problems.

Jose Garza for MALC gave the main presentation for plaintiffs and told the court that was impossible.

Until there is an adjudication that a map does not retrogress, Garza explained, a map cannot be used.

Garza distinguished the current situation from that in the Upham case cited by the state where the Department of Justice had objected to some parts of a map but not to others. In that case, Garza explained, the state (also Texas) had sought preclearance through an administrative proceeding before the DOJ. By contrast, in this case, the state had elected to go to a different decisionmaker- the three-judge panel in Washington – and, as a consequence of its own choice, there was no binding adjudication clearing portions of the maps.

Any other course would turn section 5 on its head, Garza said, by allowing a state to do exactly what section 5 prohibited – i.e., putting into effect an unprecleared map.

Garza further explained to the court that both the DOJ and intervenors in the D.C. case were alleging that the state’s maps were the product of a discriminatory purpose. According to Garza, this discriminatory purpose “infected’ the entire map and made it suspect.

Rather than starting with the state’s maps, lawyers for the plaintiffs told the court that the proper starting point for interim maps was the last legally enforceable map, i.e., Plan C100 – the current 32 district map.

The state naturally disagreed with that, and argued they were due some deference on the legislatively passed map. The questions they got from the judges over their argument seemed to indicate they did not see it that way.

If the judges agree with the plaintiffs, all of whom submitted their own proposals, what should the court use to guide it? The plaintiffs have a plan for that.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the panel asks the plaintiffs if they might be able to narrow the maps at issue by agreeing to maps or parts of maps. Jose Garza told the court that he thought at a minimum the plaintiffs would be able to clarify which of the other parties’ maps they endorsed and would try to have an announcement for the court when hearings resume Thursday morning.

The plaintiffs are expected to wrap up the congressional map portion of the hearing Thursday morning before moving on to interim state house maps.

Hearings on an interim state senate map are currently scheduled for Friday morning, but the parties indicated they might be ahead of schedule and would be prepared to do the senate map portion of the hearings on Thursday as well.

There was also discussion about a “compromise” map put forth by Reps. Henry Cuellar and Quico Canseco, and what disagreement there was among the plaintiffs mostly centered on Travis and Bexar Counties.

Meanwhile, arguments in the DC preclearance lawsuit got underway yesterday. Here’s an overview of the players involved, the arguments each side will be making, and the stakes.

Do the maps go into effect if the panel agrees with the State of Texas and grants preclearance?

No, not necessarily.

The state still will need to get past the panel in the parallel San Antonio case.

That panel last month heard claims under section 2 of Voting Rights Act that the state failed to create enough minority opportunity districts and various other constitutional claims but has been waiting to rule until a decision on preclearance.

Well, what happens if the court agrees with DOJ and the intervenors and holds that the maps are not enforceable?

If DOJ and the intervenors prevail, action still would shift back to San Antonio for the court there to draw remedial maps to remedy defects found by the D.C. court as well as to address any issues raised in the San Antonio case.

The degree of latitude the San Antonio court will have in drawing maps will depend on whether the entire map is invalidated or only parts of the map.

In theory, Governor Perry also could decide to call a special session of the Texas Legislature to draw replacement maps, but even the state’s lawyers concede that is not realistic since election deadlines are coming up and any legislatively passed map would need to go back through the preclearance process.

What about those election deadlines?

Right now, the candidate filing period in Texas opens November 12 and is scheduled to close December 12. However, the panel in the San Antonio case has indicated that it is likely to alter some of those deadlines.

The San Antonio court has asked the parties to submit proposed orders by 10:00 a.m. on Friday, November 4, with their suggestions for changes that need to be made. The expectation is that the court will enter an order by the end of the day.

More on the discussion about election deadlines can be found here:

http://tinyurl.com/5t4b2jp

The state has also made explicit its belief that the whole preclearance process is itself unconstitutional. Needless to say, that would be a big effing deal if it carries the day.

Whatever the case, no one expects the DC court to rule any time soon, so interim maps are all but guaranteed. And at least for the Congressional map, that looks like good news for Democrats.

If the Republican map became law, the GOP would likely enjoy a 26-10 advantage in the state House delegation, up from the 23-9 edge the party has now. But a court-drawn map will likely give Democrats 12 or 13 seats instead.

Republicans put themselves in this predicament with an aggressive gerrymander that might not pass legal muster. They also failed to pass a map with enough time to get it cleared in Washington, and opted to go through the courts instead of the Department of Justice, a much slower process.

The high stakes of the case could observed in the attendees: Top lawyers and strategists for both parties came to watch Wednesday’s oral arguments, as did Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).

After judges questioned representatives of the state of Texas as well as officials from the Justice Department and civil-rights groups that are working to stop the map, they made it clear they would not approve the map early enough for it to be implemented in time for next year’s election.

They also seemed skeptical of the arguments Texas’s attorneys made about which factors should determine whether the state maps discriminated against minority voters — an ominous signal for the map down the road — and at times showed deference to Justice Department officials regarding some details of the case. Since those officials already have objected to aspects of the map, that is another bad sign for Texas Republicans.

Bear in mind that a 24-12 split, which would be a shift of two seats to the Democrats, still represents a two to one advantage for the Republican delegation. Outside of the 2010 anomaly, Texas is not a two-thirds red state. 23-13 is 64% GOP, still above the normal high water mark. A truly “fair” map, one that approximates the state’s normal statewide partisan performance, would be something like 57-43 GOP, or 21-15 in terms of the delegation. As I recall, only one of the Democratic maps proposed during the special session was that aggressive. Honestly, 23-13 is the best anyone can reasonably hope for – it basically means Dems get all four new seats – but forgive me if I temper my enthusiasm just a tad.

It’s unclear, and so far unreported, if there will be an interim map for the Lege and the Senate. Given that the Justice Department also objected to the Lege map, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be a court-drawn solution there as well. The Senate is more of an open question, since the DOJ took a pass on it. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. EoW has more.

UPDATE: And here’s a report from the DC Court hearing yesterday.

Still going after Doggett

Scott Stroud suggests there’s a new ploy by Republicans in the works to get rid of Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

Congressman Lamar Smith, the Republican charged with redrawing Texas’ congressional districts, has floated a map that would transform Doggett’s district into one that barrels from Austin down Interstate 35, 18-wheeler style, through San Antonio’s East Side, then veers west across the mostly Latino South Side.

Under Smith’s proposed map, to be taken up Thursday by the Senate redistricting committee in what is always a fluid process, the district would become majority Latino and — more important to the GOP — its center of gravity would shift to San Antonio. Its brilliance lies in the long odds that voters here would accept being represented by anyone from Austin, Democrat or Republican.

[…]

What makes Smith’s ploy slick is that it draws the home of state Rep. Mike Villarreal into Doggett’s district. It would surprise no one if Villarreal, one of the few Democrats with a hand in the process, allowed his own congressional ambitions to trump any impulse to wage an uphill fight to see that his party gains a seat.

Villarreal said he supports adding a majority-Hispanic district for its own sake, regardless of who lives where. He said he sees Hispanics being underrepresented “in a real way every day, in a Texas House that currently is not a reflection of the state’s values and people.”

That hearing was postponed as Republicans were unable to agree among themselves what map to lay out. It’s still possible that Smith’s map won’t see the light of day, though with Friday’s hearing also being canceled and a special session apparently looming, there may be plenty of time for it to re-emerge. We’ll just have to see.

As for the latest scheme, losing Doggett’s seniority would be a blow to Texas, especially if the Democrats can ride the GOP’s attack on Medicare back to the majority. You can certainly argue that it would be bad for Texas Democrats if Doggett doesn’t get a district he can win, and in the grand scheme of things I’d rather have Villarreal knock off Quico Canseco and serve alongside Doggett than have him run a primary against him. Two are better than one.

That said, it’s also bad for Texas Democrats if ambitious, talented, and younger politicos like Villarreal are blocked from advancing. People who feel they have no place to go where they are will find someplace else to go, and it would definitely be a shame to lose Villarreal’s skills to the private sector, or worse a lobbyist shop. Outside of maybe Henry Cuellar, there’s no one in the Democratic Congressional caucus that has any desire to run statewide. We’re never going to build a bench for that hoped-for Democratic future if there’s nobody above the State House that has their eye on bigger things and the capability to fundraise for them. It would be a shame if we were to lose Doggett, but with all due respect, nobody is irreplaceable, and nobody is entitled to a seat. Whatever happens, we’ll get over it and figure it out.

Smith v. Barton on redistricting

From Politico:

A bitter, behind-the-scenes fight has broken out among Texas Republicans over redistricting, pitting Rep. Lamar Smith against longtime colleague Rep. Joe Barton.

The dispute is over the makeup of four new congressional districts for the Lone Star State, and centers on the racial balance — including the controversial issue of “bleaching,” or including more white voters in a district — of the new political map for Texas.

Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the point man on redistricting for Texas Republicans, is pushing to evenly split four new districts between Republicans and Democrats, acknowledging that Texas’s surging Hispanic population will gain minority-majority seats in the Dallas and Houston areas. According to 2010 Census data, Texas is now home to 9.5 million Hispanics, 38 percent of the state’s overall population, yet only six members of the congressional delegation are Hispanic, including freshman GOP Reps. Francisco Canseco and Bill Flores.

Smith, described by fellow Republicans as being driven more by political pragmatism than by partisanship, has been quietly huddling with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) to work out a bipartisan compromise on the new districts.

And with concerns over the Voting Rights Act — which bars congressional districts from being drawn in a way that dilutes minority voting power — coming into play, Smith brought in an official from the Texas Supreme Court last week to tell GOP lawmakers that there is no way to craft solid GOP districts that would meet Justice Department or federal court approval. Under the Voting Rights Act, Texas is one of 16 states that needs outside approval to implement new state and federal districts.

But Barton, who was passed over in January by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for the the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee’s gavel, has pushed to make three, or possibly all four, of the new districts Republican-favored, potentially shutting out Hispanic hopefuls from the new seats. Barton has harshly criticized Smith during Texas GOP delegation meetings, launching a profanity-laced tirade at Smith during one session early last month, and he’s privately tried to oust Smith as the lead Republican negotiator on redistricting.

Three points to make. One, it feels icky to side with Lamar Smith on just about anything, but at least I can say I’m opposing Joe Barton. Two, “acknowledging that Texas’s surging Hispanic population will gain minority-majority seats in the Dallas and Houston areas” is not quite the same as saying that these will be Democratic seats. As Greg has shown, any new “Houston-area” Congressional seat will be drawn from surrounding areas like Montgomery and Fort Bend counties. Putting Gene Green into a district in which Sylvia Garcia could successfully primary him would meet the goal of adding a Hispanic seat. Finally, if Barton gets his wish he may find it to be a Pyrrhic victory, in that several GOP Congressmen are currently in seats that are becoming more competitive every cycle, and could easily be washed out in a future good Democratic year. Among those incumbents who failed to crack 60% in 2008 despite facing weak competition: Joe Barton. If you’re a Republican and you’re thinking beyond the next election, Smith’s approach is much less risky. But hey, to each his own. Greg has more.

A redistricting compromise?

I don’t know how realistic this is, but if an agreement on how to divvy up the new Congressional districts can be worked out before the start of the legislative session, it would at least allow for more attention to be paid to matters like the budget.

Republican and Democratic members of the Texas congressional delegation are discussing a possible compromise designed to cool off the overheated politics of congressional redistricting by dividing the expected spoils once U.S. Census figures are in and the reapportionment process begins in 2011, two members of the delegation say.

U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, and Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, told me the plan on the table would split the expected four-seat gain in Texas congressional seats into two for the Republicans and two for the Democrats, shfiting the focus of a likely fight from which party gets what to where the new districts are drawn. That would take the current make-up of the delegation from 20 Republicans and 12 Democrats to 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats. Smith said he would be in Austin over the next few days presenting the possible compromise to Speaker Joe Straus and Gov. Rick Perry. Cuellar says he briefed Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst when they were together in South Texas earlier this year. “I talked to both of them,” Cuellar said. “They said, ‘If you guys come up with something bipartisan, we’ll support you.'”

Straus and Dewhurst were a bit more non-committal in the story, as you might imagine. There’s a lot of factors at play here that could strangle this effort before it ever gets started, and of course it depends on Texas actually getting four more seats – better get those Census forms in, all you Republicans – though there’s a plan for what to do if there’s only three extra seats as well. I wouldn’t bet my own money on this happening just yet, but at least the two sides are talking.

The main reason why this might work is that it would allow for the main goal of redistricting in most cases, which is incumbent protection. You figure if the 32 existing Congressfolk are reasonably happy about the boundaries they get, there’s less fuel for the firefight over the new seats. It’s quite clear where four new seats would go. The South Texas district would be Democratic, and the Central Texas one would be Republican. The other two, in west Houston and the Metroplex, could conceivably go either way. The advantage of a Southwest Harris County Democratic district is that it could be easily drawn to be a Hispanic opportunity district, which might allow Houston to elect its first-ever Latino Congressperson. It could also potentially shore up CD07 for John Culberson, by subtracting some of the area south of Westheimer from his district. The main fly in that ointment is that it would be more than a little ridiculous, and might prove technically challenging, to continue to have only one Democratic district in Dallas and Tarrant counties combined. Given the electoral trends in those counties, shoehorning in another Republican district might spread those voters around thinly enough to put as many as three currently GOP-held seats into peril in future elections: Kenny Marchant in CD24, Michael Burgess in CD26, and Pete Sessions in CD32. Not that that would grieve me, of course, but it’s the sort of thing that makes these needles hard to thread. Anyway, there’s many possible ways to do this, and it’s a much more exact science now with computers and whatnot, so we’ll see how it goes.

The effect of health care reform on Texas

Here’s an email from the Legislative Study Group, via State Rep. Garnet Coleman, who has been a constant source of health care reform updates:

LSG Policy Update: CBO Estimates of Impact of Healthcare Reform to Texas

With the United States House of Representatives poised to take a vote on health care reform [today], we wanted to provide you with some data on the expected financial impact on Texas state government.

Congressman Henry Cuellar provided us with a letter from Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. The Chairman responds to an inquiry from Congressman Cuellar on the fiscal impact of the Medicaid provisions in health reform on the State of Texas.

The House will take two main votes [today]: one on final passage of health insurance reform, and one on a sidecar reconciliation bill that improves upon the main legislation. Taken together, these measures will have an historic impact on our country and especially in Texas where almost 28 percent of the population is uninsured.

One important provision is the Medicaid expansion that will bring a million Texans living at or near the poverty level into coverage. Currently, Texas covers parents with incomes up to 26 percent of federal poverty level (FPL). The legislation will increase that to 133 percent of FPL while covering 100 percent of the costs of new enrollees until 2018, then stairstepping down the reimbursement level to 90 percent by 2020.

There have been various estimates of the proposed impact on the Texas state budget – Congressman Cuellar’s letter sheds some light on the projected state impact as viewed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). To begin with, the legislation under consideration would be in effect for ten years – through the end of 2019 – at which point Congress would have to reauthorize it. Going on the timeline of the bill (2010 – 2019), Texas should expect to spend around $1.4 billion over ten years, the bulk of which would not come until after the changes go into effect, after 2014.

This stands in contrast to estimates by HHSC you may have seen cited in the press that peg the cost at approximately $24 billion. That estimate is on a different timeline: going from 2014 – 2023, or four years past the legislation’s life. It also includes approximately $6 billion in possible cuts to Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding that is generally used to compensate hospitals that perform uncompensated care. The HHSC estimate also does not include many of the provisions in the proposed reconciliation improvement bill – for instance, Medicaid DSH reductions are smaller in the Medicaid bill. The CBO projects a $1.2 billion reduction in DSH funds over the course of the legislation (2010-2019).

All told, Texans and Texas state government stand the chance to benefit greatly from federal healthcare reform legislation. Most of the 5.9 million uninsured Texans will gain health insurance, all insured Texans will gain protection from the worst practices of the insurance industry, and Texas will likely receive over $120 billion in federal dollars.

Economist Ray Perryman noted that spending on CHIP and Medicaid has a 3.25 multiplier effect – meaning every dollar spent generates 3.25 times that amount in economic activity. The legislation has the potential to create jobs and boost economic activity in our state while also ensuring the health and well being of all its citizens.

Thank you again to Congressman Cuellar for passing along Chairman Waxman’s analysis. You can view a pdf of the letter here.

So there you have it. Now pass the damn bill already, and let’s get on with it.

Please count everyone

U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves was in Laredo on Monday trying to ease some anxiety among residents there about the upcoming Census.

Border counties, flush with residents fearful of being turned over to immigration agents, are historically among the most undercounted. The Census Bureau ranks Webb County — where Laredo is located — among the nation’s hardest-to-count areas, joining a list that includes more rural places in Alaska and South Dakota.

Speaking to about a dozen colonia residents, many of whom only speak Spanish, Groves tried to allay their fears. He stressed that census data will be kept confidential and not turned over to other agencies.

“If the president asked me for your census form, I can say ‘No, you can’t get it,'” Groves told the crowd. “If I violate that law, I can go to prison.”

Groves visited the colonia with Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who said his district, which includes Laredo, lost more than $55 million in federal dollars during the last census because of undercounting.

An estimated 373,000 people in Texas weren’t counted in the 2000 census. Cuellar said Texas could pick up as many as four congressional seats if every household is properly counted.

There are many bumps in the road, and it’s not just with Latino communities.

The Census Bureau is printing instruction guides and sample forms in dozens of different languages for use in community help centers, since one in five residents speak a language other than English at home. But there have been errors due to poor translations, including material for Vietnamese speakers that describe the census as a “government investigation.”

The agency was able to correct its Web material two weeks ago after groups pointed out the problem, but it’s too late to fix the paper forms, according to the report. There are more than 1.1 million Vietnamese in the U.S., mostly clustered in California and Texas.

Other gaps included a lack of specialists for the Bangladeshi community in Detroit; the nation’s third largest Korean-American population in Chicago; and the south Asian and Cambodian groups in Philadelphia and Rhode Island. In Virginia, when groups cited a need for census specialists for their Korean and Vietnamese communities, the agency responded by hiring someone who spoke Chinese.

Responding, the Census Bureau has emphasized it is devoting a large amount of its $133 million ad campaign to racial and ethnic audiences, including television spots in 28 different languages. It also worked with more than 150,000 business and community groups, hoping to build trust in its message that filling out the 10-question census form is safe and easy to complete.

Those stories were based on a report released by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. You can read their press release here and their full report, which is summarized in that release, here (PDF). They express hope that it’s not too late to fix some of these problems. I sure hope they’re right about that.

Recount in HCC 3

No surprise at all.

Mary Ann Perez appeared to pull off a tight victory in the Houston Community College’s District III trustee race Tuesday night. But her opponent was in no mood for a concession.

“I’m requesting a recount,” said incumbent Diane Olmos Guzman, who added that “there will be a bright future for me.”

The unofficial final result is Perez 2881, Guzman 2837. That may change a bit as provisional votes are reviewed and any outstanding overseas votes come in. In the end, I doubt it will matter. Pam Holm defeated Jeff Daily in the 2003 runoff for District G by only 27 votes in an election with 37,000 total ballots cast, but that result stood up after further review. The only election I can recall offhand that changed after a recount was the 2004 primary in which Henry Cuellar unseated Ciro Rodriguez; Rodriguez led initially, then fell behind after some 200 uncounted ballots were found that heavily favored Cuellar. Anything can happen, of course, but I don’t expect that.

Election tidbits for 9/23

– KTRK has another round of candidate videos, this time answering the question “How can you help Houstonians get to work?”

– Peter Brown sends out another mailer, this one all about his blueprint for an “Even Better Houston”. You can view it here.

– Tom Schieffer goes to college.

“Carlyfornia”, here we come. To mock for being the worst political website ever.

– Won’t someone please think of the insurance companies?

Greg has an early look at the early voting locations in Harris County. Thanks to the constitutional amendments on the ballot, you don’t have to be in Houston to have something to vote on.

Andrea White is campaigning, too.

– Somehow, my email address wound up on a list that Louisiana Sen. “Diaper David” Vitter sent a missive to. Yeah, I don’t think I’m in his target demographic.

BOR gets some feedback from Rep. Henry Cuellar regarding that R2K poll on health care reform. I look forward to seeing his statement, as what they got from him isn’t exactly crystal clear.

Polling health care in CD28

Daily Kos/Research 2000 conducted a series of polls in various Blue Dog Congressional districts, one of which was Rep. Henry Cuellar’s CD28. The results are here. To the question “Do you favor or oppose creating a government-administered health insurance option that anyone can purchase to compete with private insurance plans?”, the result was 53% in favor, 40% opposed. It shows Cuellar, who won with over 68% of the vote in 2008 (significantly outperforming Barack Obama in doing so; I don’t have exact figures, but just eyeball the county by county canvass for each and it will be clear) with a lower approval rating than Obama, mediocre re-elect numbers, and a nontrivial number of people who say they’d be less likely to support him if he opposed a public health insurance option. I’ll be delighted if these numbers, or anything else, make Cuellar feel pressure to do the right thing on health care reform, but color me skeptical of the idea that he might be in any actual electoral danger regardless of what he does. The Republicans have never run a viable candidate against him, and I don’t expect that to change next year, and he’s more than proven his mettle in primaries. Again, I hope this result gets noticed in his district, and helps keep him on track, I just wouldn’t count on much more than that. The other results:

Arkansas 4 (Mike Ross)
Georgia 12 (John Barrow)
Michigan 1 (Bart Stupak)

Kos’ writeup is here, and the FiveThirtyEight post that sparked these polls is here. I note with interest that Nate Silver projects a net favorable result for the public option in CD32, which is NRCC Chair Pete Sessions’ district. I hope the DCCC is paying attention, since the potential to give Sessions a headache ought to be irresistible. The less comfortable a position he can be put in, the better. Texas Kaos has more.