The benefits of seniority
The Federal Highway Administration will absolutely not penalize Texas for its handling of the Highway 121 bidding process.
That's the message from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who said in an interview this afternoon that she called U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters this morning after reading a story in Wednesday's edition of The Dallas Morning News about lingering uncertainty on the issue.
"I am convinced there will be no demand for a return of federal funds," Sen. Hutchison said. "I had talked to her before, during the (state) legislative session when all of this was being dealt with at the time. I told her today that we were told then that there would be no federal penalty at all for what the Legislature was doing. She said she'd call me back and she did within two hours. She said, 'You are absolutely right.'"
Many Texans were outraged when the multi-billion-dollar toll-road deal went to the Spanish company Cintra. When the North Texas Tollway Authority responded by suggesting they could have offered a better deal, many lawmakers seized on their statements and pressured the Texas Transportation Commission to clear the way for a late bid by the NTTA.
The Federal Highway Administration responded by sending Texas officials a series of letters saying the late bid could violate the federal bidding rules and that the state could lose more than $200 million in federal funds if the contract was awarded to NTTA.
Here's a nightmare scenario: Cornyn is defeated and Hutchison becomes governor in 2010. Texas is left with a Senate contingent consisting of a Democrat of 2 years seniority and a Republican of zero seniority.
The Texas establishment isn't too fond of Cornyn, but they're going to have to think twice before backing any Democratic challenger, given the very real possibility that Hutchison will be governor in 2010. Hutchison also will probably be focusing on her gubernatorial campaign in 2009, meaning that a Cornyn defeat would also leave Texas poorly represented in 2008 and 2009.
While the Texas establishment may not be fond of Cornyn, they'll have to respect the 8 years of seniority he'll have by 2010. Further, while many of them don't see him as their type of legislator, they're completely missing the fact that he's very well regarded among the Senate Republican Caucus. That will put him in position to deliver.
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