The honeymoon period for most governors is that time when the Texas Senate rubber stamps appointments to state agencies, but Greg Abbott is having his nominees ruffled by the right wing of his own party. Abbott’s nominee for secretary of state was scolded for using the term “undocumented” instead of “illegal” to describe people entering the country illegally, and on Thursday the Senate Nominations Committee will take testimony from University of Texas regent appointees who have been declared “unqualified” by the tea party-oriented Empower Texans.
The Senate recently confirmed Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos as Secretary of State, but not before Senator Brian Birdwell chastised him for using the term “undocumented” to describe people who are entering the country illegally. The exchange as described in the Houston Chronicle:
Cascos, who was born in Mexico and is Cameron County judge, used the description when discussing border security.
“I believe that 99 percent or more of the folks that come over to this country, albeit undocumented, come here for one purpose only — to better their lives, take care of their families. But you do have that percentage of element that may come over to do harm to our country,” said Cascos, who expressed wholehearted support for the need to secure the border.
Sen. Brian Birdwell — a Granbury Republican who heads Nominations and has long pressed to end in-state college tuition for immigrants here without documents — cited Cascos’ use of the word later in his confirmation hearing.
“I do wanted to make one correction if I may, judge. You mentioned ‘undocumented’ as to those that would come across the border illegally. As secretary of state, words have meanings. And they’re very precise,” Birdwell said.
“I want to make sure that our language is precise, that whatever the intense motivations, ‘undocumented’ is very different than ‘illegal’,” he said. “In your position as secretary of state, when you see illegality, whatever it may be and from whomever it may be, I want you to address it in that way.”
Cascos responded, “I will, sir, very directly.”
Asked about the exchange afterward, Cascos said it was a matter of “semantics.”
Birdwell’s committee this Thursday is scheduled to take testimony from Abbott’s U.T. regent appointees David J. Beck of Houston, Steven Hicks of Austin and Sara Martinez Tucker of Dallas before deciding whether to recommend them to the full Senate for confirmation. Rare is the regent nominee whose confirmation is uncertain, but that may not be the case this time.
If Abbott is on a honeymoon with the Legislature, then Michael Quinn Sullivan’s right wing Empower Texans is like taking a disapproving and scolding parent along on the trip. Empower Texans is arguing that Tucker and Beck are unqualified to serve as regents.
“Coming out of the gate with appointments, the team advising Gov. Greg Abbott seems to have made an initial early misstep by appointing an advocate of “common core” to the University of Texas board of regents. This is most surprising, given the strong stance Abbott has taken in opposing Common Core in specific and the federalization of education in general,” Sullivan wrote in a first blush article.
Beck has been targeted by Empower Texans because he once was president of the University of Texas Law School Foundation. Deferred compensation payments from the foundation sparked the two-year controversy over former President Bill Power’s management of the University of Texas at Austin and a legislative investigation of U.T. Regent Wallace Hall.
Empower Texans writer Tony McDonald earlier this month wrote “that both Tucker and Beck are unqualified to serve on the Board of Regents.”
Although it seems unlikely that the Senate will bust Abbott’s regent nominees, I suspect they’ll feel some heat from the Republican senators who grill them in the nominations committee. If they don’t, it might be a measure of Sullivan’s ability to sway debate at the Capitol in this session.
Conservative Christians hear Dan Patrick’s call for a battle prayer
In other news around the Capitol, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick urged conservative Christians at a Capitol rally to oppose abortion, protect traditional marriage and defend the Constitution. “I have your back because I know you have mine. I need your prayers every day. Every member needs your prayers every day. It’s a battle, but we will be victorious, because, with God, who could be against us.”
You can watch a video of the event at the Austin American-Statesman.
Senator wants the U.N. out of the Alamo
Remember those Cold War era billboards urging the United States to get out of the United Nations because it is an international conspiracy? A Republican senator from New Braunfels brought that same logic to the Capitol this week with her bill to prohibit the sale of the Alamo. “I can tell you anything that starts with U.N. gives me cause for concern,” Senator Donna Campbell said, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Campbell believes UNESCO’s designation of the Alamo and four other San Antonio missions as World Heritage sites may not just be an honor but an actual attempt to bring the shrine of Texas liberty under foreign control. Testifying for her bill to block the Alamo’s sale, Campbell found herself in a bipartisan crossfire of senators telling her she was trying to solve a problem that did not exist, and a representative of Land Commissioner George P. Bush said Bush has no plans to sell the Alamo and could not do it without legislative consent. Campbell’s bill to block the Alamo sale was left pending in the Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee.