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The Brief: Dec. 20, 2010

Three or four? That's the big question. And tomorrow, we get an answer.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Three or four? That's the big question. And tomorrow, we get an answer.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau, as it does every decade, will announce state population totals, which determine representation in Congress. Political clout shifts toward states that have added the most inhabitants.

Texas is widely expected to lead the pack, adding either three or four House seats. Other Sun Belt states, including Florida and Arizona, are also projected to post big gains, while Rust Belt states look most likely to see losses.

Texas legislators will use this information during the redistricting process, a political lightning rod that's expected to rankle the Legislature when it convenes next month. In the past, fights have broken out over federal laws requiring that new maps respect minority voting rights.

And though Republicans secured a huge advantage in the Texas House in November, redistricting might not be a losing game for Democrats. As the Cook Political Report has noted:

First, Republicans are already "maxed out" in the state, thanks to Tom DeLay-orchestrated mid-decade redistricting in 2004 and three gains in 2010 that netted them a 23-9 advantage in the House delegation. Second, torrid growth in the state’s Hispanic population probably necessitates at least two new seats will have to be Hispanic-majority districts, meaning Democrats could actually net seats from this round of redistricting.

Any additional GOP seats, though, will add to Texas Republicans' clout in Washington, which is already on the rise.

CULLED:

  • The DREAM Act, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for some children of illegal immigrants, failed in the U.S. Senate this weekend, with both of Texas' senators, as expected, casting votes against the bill. Both also voted to uphold the "don't ask, don't tell" military policy, which the Senate, in a historic move, repealed on Saturday.
  • A jailbreak near the border — the Mexican town of Nuevo Laredo, where 139 inmates are said to have escaped on Friday — was likely orchestrated by a major Mexican drug cartel, which authorities say is looking to bolster its ranks.
  • Hearst Newspapers — which owns a handful of Texas outlets, including the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News — has lost a motion to secure the release of documents received by Gov. Rick Perry before he denied a stay of execution to Cameron Todd Willingham, whom many believe to have been wrongfully convicted in the arson murder of his three children. 
  • Aaron Peña, the state representative who defected to the Republican Party last week, has become state Democrats' new favorite punching bag, with online campaigns — one calling him "hereby tilde-less and using his cleansed, conservative Republican namesake" — targeting the South Texas legislator. 

"The Senate is their Alamo." — State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, on Democrats in the state Legislature

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