Even amid furloughs, some Texans cheer Cruz
HOUSTON (AP) — Thanks to Texas’ new senator, Dale Huls is out of a job – at least for now. Yet Huls has never been prouder that he voted for him.
“Without Ted Cruz this doesn’t happen,” said Huls, a NASA systems engineer who was among roughly 3,000 federal employees furloughed from Houston’s Johnson Space Center after tea party Republicans triggered the partial government shutdown.
“This is something Americans have to get used to,” said Huls. “Even if it affects your livelihood, you’ve got to stand up.”
Perhaps more than anywhere else, Texas embodies the factors behind the shutdown: big government and the rebellion against it.
The state is one of the richest beneficiaries of federal spending, with its sprawling military bases, Gulf Coast seaports and more than 1,200-mile border with Mexico, which help account for more than 131,500 full-time federal employees. Only California, Virginia and the District of Columbia have more.
Yet Cruz’s firebrand opposition to the nation’s new entitlement program – the Affordable Care Act – and his campaign to stop government growth at all costs were also born here, and resonate deeply with many conservatives. In Houston, home to thousands of federal workers and to Cruz himself, the shutdown has brought the love/hate relationship with government into plain view.
Huls said he doesn’t believe his job is a waste of money: “The public doesn’t think much of federal workers these days, but we’re people with car payments just like everyone else.”
Still, he said of Cruz, “He’s fighting for what he believes in and I’m taking a side.”
But Jeff Darby, an investigator with the wage and hour division of the U.S. Labor Department based in Beaumont, east of Houston, said he thinks the showdown is more about political ambition than ideals.
“It is not anyone’s patriotic duty to make Ted Cruz a household name,” said Darby, a leader of the American Federation of Government Employees, who said he’s “at home looking at my two dogs instead of working” because of furloughs.
A rising tea party star, Cruz was elected to the Senate in 2012. He carried Harris County by 18,000 votes, even though it includes Houston’s minority population and government workers. He had been in office barely nine months when took to the Senate floor for a 21-plus-hour quasi-filibuster decrying the health care law, and then led an effort to block a budget deal with Democrats.
Cruz supporters tend to make a distinction between government workers and government. The former can be worthwhile; the latter is taking on too much and must be pruned to its essential functions. In a Pew Research Center poll this week, 41 percent of conservative Republicans expressed anger at the federal government, up from 32 percent in 2011 and just 5 percent in 2006.
But with the workers now being idled, some conservatives in Cruz’s hometown are debating whether his tactics have gone too far.
Carolyn Hodges, the Houston-based president of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, said her group was split between conservatives supporting Cruz and others who want compromise. She said she personally “would like to see some movement on behalf of both” Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
NASA is the hardest-hit federal agency in terms of furloughs, with 97 percent of its 18,000-plus employees nationwide sent home. At Johnson Space Center, only about 200 civilians remain working because they protect property and life, like two U.S. astronauts and four others currently aboard the International Space Station.
“It’s frustration that others don’t understand because they’re not directly affected,” Bob Mitchell, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, said of NASA employees sent home. He declined to comment specifically on Cruz saying, “We need him and he needs us.”
President Barack Obama separated his time in the U.S. Senate from a cadre of first-term senators, Cruz included, who have channeled the tea party’s anger toward the president while raising their own profiles.
” … I recognize that in today’s media age, being controversial, taking controversial positions, rallying the most extreme parts of your base – whether it’s left or right – is a lot of times the fastest way to get attention or raise money, but it’s not good for government,” Obama said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. “It’s not good for the people we’re supposed to be serving.”
Huls said he has enough savings to tide him over for at least two months without a paycheck. But he’s worried about not making up money he borrowed from his retirement plan and says he may eventually have to talk to other creditors about extensions.
“But I don’t consider myself a victim,” Huls said. “I’m in this fight too and this is my role.”
Pedro Rivera, a space center programs specialist who is working on the Orion capsule the U.S. hopes to send to Mars, said he too is willing to accept being furloughed even if the shutdown means a delay in Orion’s scheduled test launch next year.
“I think it’s a small price to pay for the future generations,” said Rivera, who says he considers the new health care law un-American.
But space center financial management specialist Bridget Broussard-Guidry said her colleagues include single parents who can’t afford a long shutdown.
“Even though you save for a rainy day, you don’t know how long it’s going to rain,” said Broussard-Guidry, president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees.
White House correspondent Julie Pace in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
Pearland Area Republican Club President Gary Moore questions Congressman Pete Olson on the Free Market Economy and Obamacare
Sometimes, you must demand accountability. Heidi Thiess, Councilwoman for League City, TX wanted REAL answers from Congressman Olson in lieu of the canned answers he gave during the Pearland Tea Party meeting. Thank you Tanya Robertson for the video!
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called for a “grassroots army” to rise up and help him defund ObamaCare.
“Now we need to activate another grassroots army — this time on a national scale,” Cruz said on Monday. “The only way we can win this debate is if the American people rise up and demand it.”
Cruz, along with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), have called on Republicans to reject any government spending plan that includes funding for the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.
A short-term spending deal is expected in September in order to avert a government shutdown when the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1. Congress hasn’t agreed to a 2014 budget or passed the 12 appropriations bills to set its funding priorities.
Cruz has said he would not support the deal if it includes ObamaCare funding because he believes the law has harmed the U.S. economy.
“In September, Congress will have the opportunity to defund ObamaCare — the disastrous health care law, which is killing jobs and hurting the health care system,” Cruz said.
Republicans have argued that healthcare mandates within the law will raise insurance costs for individuals and that employers who would have to provide insurance to full-time employees will reduce workers’ hours and stop hiring.
Cruz encouraged the public to contact their elected officials to voice concerns about the law.
Democrats point out that the law is already benefiting those with preexisting conditions who can’t be denied coverage, people younger than 26 who can stay on their parent’s insurance plan and women who now pay less for preventative healthcare.
Thursday, 18 Apr 2013 By Sandy Fitzgerald
Passage of the new bipartisan immigration reform bill could mean a $3,000 per year incentive for employers who choose a newly legal immigrant over a U.S. citizen. Continue reading
By Paul Scicchitano
As a number of Republican governors continue to say “no” to Obamacare, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) on Wednesday acknowledged that the president’s signature healthcare law is racking up twice the costs to set up the all-important insurance exchanges.
HHS more than doubled its previous cost estimate of $2 billion for the amount it expects to spend to help states set up insurance exchanges, which is a central component of Obamacare.
The agency now expects to spend $4.4 billion by the end of the year, reports The Hill.
Despite the projection overruns, the department is “determined to make them work,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources Ellen Murray of the exchanges, when asked to comment on the possibility that Congress might deny the funding request, according to the publication.
As Newsmax reported in February, the federal government must play an even bigger role in Obamacare than anticipated because of the health exchanges it must operate for states declining to set up their own.
Exchanges were envisioned as places where private consumers, who aren’t necessarily covered by an employer healthcare program, can compare and purchase healthcare coverage.
Since a number of Republican governors have opted out of the new law, HHS will be responsible for running exchanges in those states that choose not to participate, according to The Hill, which notes that only 17 states and the District of Columbia have been approved to run exchanges.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters on Wednesday that the implementation funding is an “ongoing conversation with Congress” and “I’m hoping Congress will see that this is the law of the land.”