This Week in Texas Politics: Ted Cruz, Nancy Pelosi, natural disasters

Real storms, rather than political storms, demanded most of our attention this week in Texas, but there were several notable moments that are worth talking about now. 

Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in questioning Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing also had a political sparing match with Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in Texas and endorsed Congressman Henry Cuellar as the election battle for parts of South Texas heats up. Also, could the recent natural disasters factor into Texas politics?

FOX7's Rudy Koski and our panel of political experts take a look at the issues that dominated This Week in Texas Politics.

RUDY KOSKI: And here we are back in the LBJ Penthouse to talk about This Week in Texas Politics, and it was one of those rare occurrences that Texas politics got put to the back burner because of natural disasters that happened, tornadoes and grass fires, all across the state. But politics still took place this week, and we had some pretty good stories. But first, let's go with our headlines of the week. It will start off with Scott Braddock with the Quorum Report. Scott, your headline?

SCOTT BRADDOCK: Ted Cruz for President 2024: Does anybody care? 

RUDY KOSKI: Steven Dial, FOX 4 Dallas, your headline for the week.

STEVEN DIAL: Political theater in Supreme Court hearing. 

RUDY KOSKI: Patrick Svitek with Texas Tribune. Your headline for the week.

PATRICK SVITEK: Ought to go with Cruz as well. Cruz dominates SCOTUS hearing, not always in the most flattering way. 

RUDY KOSKI: And let's go right into that Cruz Supreme Court hearing that took place this week, it got a little volatile. Scott, what struck you the most in this one? 

SCOTT BRADDOCK: Well, the degree to which Ted Cruz was willing to debase himself for the Republican base he is just running for president. I love all the analysis of people asking the question, is he running for president? Of course he is. He might want to have a conversation with Donald Trump about that, who continues to act like he's the one running in 2024. 

PATRICK SVITEK: You know, the political context here is, I think, pretty transparent. And I think that, you know, he's trying to use this nominee to speak to the Republican base issues of the day, even if it's a stretch, you know, a real stretch to how it relates to her, her record or her credibility.

STEVEN DIAL: These were ad clips. These were test runs, to see what can be saved to use either in the next election or, like the other guys have mentioned, in a possible bid for president. 

SCOTT BRADDOCK: I was, I say, Rudy as one of Ted Cruz's Republican colleagues, Ben Sasse said he described what was happening in those hearings as quote "Jack*ssery," close quote.

PATRICK SVITEK: I think Cruz is very narrowly focused on exciting, not necessarily the entire Republican base, but the Republican base that watches Tucker Carlson every night. That is really tuned in to the, you know, eight and nine p.m. and 10 p.m. blocks on Fox News every night, which is a subset of the Republican base. And so I don't think he's necessarily damaging himself among those people. But of course, you know, among the broader electorate, I don't think he's doing himself any favors. I don't know how many persuadable voters there work for him in that space to begin with. But I think he's looking very narrowly at a very, you know, a very specific subset of the Republican base. 

RUDY KOSKI: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi came into Texas, this week, and pushing not just health care, but also a candidate who is in somewhat trouble. That's Henry Cuellar. [Cuellar is in a run-off against progressive primary challenger Jessica Cisneros who has been endorsed by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.] Scott, is she putting herself up against the Progressives? And is this a a battle between that, those two sides?

SCOTT BRADDOCK: Some ways it is, you know, the first standing order of any presiding officer of a legislative chamber as a Speaker, the first thing you have to do is protect your incumbents, protect the institution. And that speaks to Speaker Politics. You know, if effective Congressman Cuellar comes back, then he would be a vote for Speaker Pelosi in her leadership position. 

RUDY KOSKI: Steven, could this also be about the fact that the Republicans are targeting South Texas and she's got to support someone down there that's already established? 

STEVEN DIAL: Timing is interesting, right? And the timing of her visit is interesting. 

RUDY KOSKI: And speaking of elections, the Biden administration has sued the state of Texas for a third time in regards to redistricting maps. This one is in regards to Galveston that area, but still it is the third big strike against the the changes that Texas Republicans made politically to. 

PATRICK SVITEK: Politically, I think it's important for the Biden administration to be as aggressive as possible with this, this kind of litigation because we went through this whole battle last year where they tried to push new voting rights legislation through Congress and just kept hitting a wall. Obviously, Texas House Democrats have, you know, firsthand frustration with that inaction in Congress. And so the alternative to that and I think if you talk to Democrats in Texas, you know, if you can't get anything through Congress, you better use all the tools at your disposal as an administration, including the, you know, the legal powers of the Justice Department to make sure that you're going after these voting issues in an aggressive way. 

RUDY KOSKI: Do these natural disasters, Scott, become political?

SCOTT BRADDOCK: Where the political ramifications, it doesn't happen in the days right after that disaster. It happens in the weeks and months and even years after the disaster, when people still haven't rebuilt their homes, when people still have problems with, you know, getting basic services. 

STEVEN DIAL: I don't think it's going to put ERCOT on the back burner, but there is ERCOT fatigue among people. 

PATRICK SVITEK: For Abbott, though, this, I think, is a very welcome break for what had been a brutal news cycle. You know, when you look at mounting issues over Operation Lone Star, issues in foster care in Texas. 

RUDY KOSKI: And with that, let's wrap up this discussion about this week in politics with our one word, Scott, your one word for the week. 


RUDY KOSKI:  Steven, you're one word for the week?

STEVEN DIAL:  Clean up. 

RUDY KOSKI:  And Patrick, your one word for the week? 


RUDY KOSKI: And with that, we're wrapping up another Week in Texas Politics. 

Ted Cruz clashes with Democrats during heated confirmation hearing for Ketanji Brown Jackson
Ted Cruz, John Cornyn are poised to vote against Ketanji Brown Jackson
Texas’ traditionally sleepy school board races are suddenly attracting attention — and money
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