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The Brief: Sept. 20, 2011

A small-scale version of the potential 2012 showdown between President Obama and Gov. Rick Perry erupted Monday.

President Obama speaks to a crowd at the University of Texas on Aug. 9, 2010.

The Big Conversation:

A small-scale version of the potential 2012 showdown between President Barack Obama and Gov. Rick Perry erupted Monday.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in court filings Monday that Texas' newly redrawn maps for congressional and state House districts, approved by Perry, don't meet federal minority voting-rights standards.

The Justice Department, however, issued no objection to the maps for the Texas Senate and State Board of Education districts.

Democrats have said the Republican-backed maps don't account for the explosive growth in minority populations over the last decade. Every 10 years, the state redraws its districts to reflect new census data; the new maps then go to a federal court or to the Justice Department to ensure that they meet requirements laid out in the Voting Rights Act.

Texas Republicans, anticipating that the Justice Department would deny their maps preclearance, have asked the D.C. federal court for a ruling. Justice Department lawyers will fight the Texas maps in court.

As National Journal notes, the filing marks the Obama administration's first civil-rights challenge to a redistricting plan this year. And as Perry campaigns for the Republican nomination, the case could hand the governor one of the most striking examples yet of what he'd consider the federal overreach of the Obama administration.

“Nobody should be thinking that these lines will remain,” Texas Democratic strategist Matt Angle told The Hill. “There’s a good chance that there’s significant change to the congressional map. It’s a very big impact from the standpoint of looking at the prospects over the next cycle and beyond in terms of winning back the House.”

Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office, which will defend the state's maps, maintained that the plans complied with the Voting Rights Act. "We will continue working to expeditiously obtain preclearance for the remaining maps in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.," she said.

As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports, the separate federal redistricting trial in San Antonio, which wrapped up last week, concerns different aspects of the Voting Rights Act — namely, the addition of districts. But both cases will determine what Texas' maps will look like for the next decade. 


  • The Texas Democratic Party on Monday accused state Rep. Aaron Peña of Edinburg, who switched to the Republican Party before this year's legislative session, of lying about his role in the redistricting debate this spring. Peña, Democrats said, claimed he was in no way involved in the creation of the more conservative district into which he was drawn, but testimony from the federal redistricting trial in San Antonio, which just wrapped up, appears to indicate otherwise. "What it is is a personal attack on me," Peña said, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
  • Gov. Rick Perry, in a fundraising swing through Harlem on Monday, got an unexpected visit from Charlie Rangel, the longtime Democratic congressman, who turned up outside the restaurant at which Perry was scheduled to meet with local Hispanic business leaders. "I wanted to make him feel comfortable," said Rangel, adding, while grinning, that he "had no idea it was a Republican event."
  • Rick Perry plans on testing his economic plan with House Republicans, some of whom he'll meet with this week. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., who recently endorsed Perry and is serving as an economic adviser to the campaign, told Politico that Perry will make the House GOP's so called "cut, cap and balance" plan "a centerpiece of his platform."

"We're fed up, too, Gov. Perry, and we're ready for you to take care of this issue." — Tea Party activist JoAnn Fleming at a press conference at the Capitol on Monday calling for Perry to crack down on illegal immigration


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