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Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz Launches Presidential Bid

By Lisa Mascaro and David Lauter, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is running for president, he announced on Twitter.

The ambitious lawmaker’s intentions were no surprise. An aide had confirmed Sunday that Cruz would announce his 2016 White House run on Monday at Liberty University, the conservative university founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Cruz tipped his hand even earlier.

Shortly after midnight Sunday, he tweeted: “I’m running for president and I hope to earn your support!”

In an accompanying video, Cruz said, “It’s going to take a new generation of courageous conservatives to help make America great again. I’m ready to stand with you to lead the fight.”

Cruz becomes the first high-profile Republican to formally enter the 2016 contest. Several other hopefuls are reportedly planning announcements for next month, as is Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Houston Chronicle first reported Cruz’s plan, which was confirmed by a strategist close to him, who spoke before the official announcement on condition of anonymity.

The Texas senator trails several other potential Republican candidates in early polling, including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and two Senate colleagues, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.

Cruz, 44, has tense relations with the party establishment and Senate leadership, whose legislative plans he often complicates. But he has an ardent following in the conservative wing of the party, and is likely to be a significant force in the primaries.

After his election to the Senate in 2012, Cruz won backing from Tea Party activists by leading the GOP’s push to shut down the federal government in fall 2013, part of an unsuccessful bid to block President Barack Obama’s health care law.

He has staked out uncompromising positions on the right, calling for the complete repeal of Obamacare, abolition of the Internal Revenue Service, and opposition to any form of “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

Those credentials will be highlighted by the venue for his Monday announcement, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. The school, founded by Falwell in 1971, declares its mission to be “training champions for Christ.” Its graduates can be found in many roles in conservative organizations across the country.

The decision to announce his candidacy at Liberty indicates how crucial evangelical voters will be to his prospects. Evangelicals form a key voting bloc in many Republican elections, particularly in Iowa, which holds the first contest of the presidential season.

Cruz will face intense competition for evangelical voters. Walker has enjoyed strong backing from religious conservatives in his campaigns, and Paul has courted evangelical leaders in Iowa and elsewhere. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry also has received strong evangelical support in the past, as have former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who appear to be less competitive in the strong 2016 field.

Because Cruz’s Senate term runs through the end of 2018, he can run for the presidency without losing his seat.

Photo: Texas Senator Ted Cruz during the Ag Summit in Des Moines. 3/7/2015 (John Pemble, iprimages/Flickr)

Obama Administration Delays Decision On Keystone XL Pipeline

By David Lauter and Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has delayed a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, perhaps until after November’s midterm election.

A further delay in the evaluation of the pipeline, which already has lasted more than five years, is necessary because of a Nebraska state court decision in February that invalidated part of the project’s route, the State Department said in a statement.

Shortly after the court ruling, administration officials had said the Nebraska case would not have an impact on their deliberations. But in the new statement, the State Department said federal agencies could not evaluate the pipeline’s impact until the “uncertainty created by the ongoing litigation” is resolved.

That could take awhile. Nebraska officials have appealed the case to the state Supreme Court but have said they do not expect a ruling until late this year at the earliest.

In the meantime, the latest delay could get President Barack Obama off a politically difficult hook in an election year. The White House has been pressed on one side by environmentalists who have turned opposition to the pipeline into a major cause and on the other by conservative Democrats from energy-producing states who support it.

Administration officials have differed on both the substance and the politics of a decision on Keystone, which would carry oil from the tar sands deposits underneath Canada’s western prairies to refineries in Texas and Oklahoma.

Opponents say the project would worsen global warming by opening up the tar sands to development. Supporters say it would reduce U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East, Africa and other unstable parts of the world and that Canada will develop the tar sands whether the U.S. approves a pipeline or not.

Obama has said he would approve the project only if it could be proven not to worsen emissions of greenhouse gases that lead to global warming. His approval is needed because the pipeline crosses an international border.

Politically, Obama’s advisers have disagreed about the impact on a difficult election season in which Democrats face a strong prospect of losing control of the Senate.

Some advisers believe a decision to kill the pipeline could boost enthusiasm among Democratic activists, which has been lagging. Others argue that since most of the key Senate races are taking place in red states, such as Louisiana, Alaska and Arkansas, a decision against the project could hurt Democratic prospects.

Those political calculations were on display as lawmakers and others reacted to the administration’s decision.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who has campaigned for re-election by stressing her independence from Obama, lambasted the delay as “irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable” and vowed to use her position as head of the Senate Energy Committee to win approval for the pipeline.

“Today’s decision by the administration amounts to nothing short of an indefinite delay of the Keystone pipeline,” she said, warning that it sends “a signal that the small minority who oppose the pipeline can tie up the process in court forever.”

Another conservative Democrat, Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) said the move “leaves everyone waiting in limbo.”

“It hurts all of us when no decisions are made,” she said in a statement.

Republicans and the oil industry quickly denounced the decision.

“At a time of high unemployment in the Obama economy, it’s a shame,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“It’s a sad day for America’s workers when politics trumps job-creating policy at the White House,” American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said in a statement.

Russ Girling, chief executive of TransCanada, which is proposing to build the pipeline, said in a statement that the company was “extremely disappointed and frustrated with yet another delay.”

Environmental groups were thrilled. The League of Conservation Voters hailed the delay as “great news” that “makes us even more confident that the harmful Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will ultimately be rejected.”

Photo via Wikimedia Commons