State News

Oct 5, 2013 11:27 AM by Associated Press

Houston's Dale Huls is Out of a Job

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.

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