It’s February 4, which means we’re just one month (or four weeks) away from 2014’s first primaries. There are a number of GOP races we’ll be watching over the next month in the Lone Star State — and, no, Sen. John Cornyn‘s GOP primary contest against Rep. Steve Stockman isn’t one of them.
— House incumbents: Two long-time Republican members of Congress are facing potentially-credible primary challenges. Seventeen-term Rep. Ralph Hall, who turns 91 this spring, will be at a severe financial disadvantage in TX-04 against self-funding former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe. At the end of the year, Ratcliffe had more than $430,000 in the bank, nearly four times as much as Hall did. Hall has beaten back primary challengers before, winning 58% of the vote in 2012 and 57% in 2010. Meanwhile, Rep. Pete Sessions, a member of GOP leadership and former NRCC chair, has drawn a tea-party-aligned challenger in TX-32, Katrina Pierson. Pierson campaigned for now-Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in 2012, and she has the support of Cruz’s outspoken father, Rafael. But she has so far failed to gain traction, particularly with fundraising.
— Battleground House seat: Despite its 36 House seats, Texas isn’t home to a large number of battleground districts. Just two seats are marginally competitive: TX-15 (D+5) and TX-23 (R+3). TX-23, won by Pete Gallego (D) in 2012, should be an opportunity for a GOP pickup this year. Gallego knocked off then-Rep. Quico Canseco (R) by 4 points, despite the fact that Mitt Romney won 51% in the district. Republicans face a competitive primary for their nomination in the 71% Hispanic district: Canseco is back for another go, as are Will Hurd (R) and Robert Lowry (R), both of whom ran against Canseco in 2010. Canseco isn’t a prohibitive favorite. Hurd finished first in the 2010 primary before losing the runoff, and he started 2014 with slightly more in the bank ($204,000) than Canseco ($183,000). The NRCC continued recruiting here before the filing deadline, suggesting they aren’t satisfied with a 2010 rerun.
— Lieutenant governor: Having failed in the 2012 Senate primary runoff, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) is running for reelection. But just as Cruz did in 2012, Dewhurst’s rivals have ganged up on him and forced him to run to the right. Like in 2012, the race seems destined for a runoff. Whether the second candidate to qualify is state Sen. Dan Patrick, state Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples or Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson could impact Dewhurst’s chances at renomination. It’s possible that 2014 could mark the beginning of Dewhurst’s recovery, or the denouement of what began two years ago in the Senate race.
March 4 won’t be the final word on many of these primaries, but they will provide the first 2014 front in the battle between establishment Republicans like Sessions and Dewhurst, and the upstart conservatives looking to supplant them.
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"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.