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The Brief: June 21, 2012

A long-simmering fight between the GOP and the Obama administration threatened to boil over on Wednesday, and Texas Republicans didn't miss the chance to stir the pot.

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The Big Conversation:

A long-simmering fight between the GOP and the Obama administration threatened to boil over on Wednesday, and Texas Republicans didn't miss the chance to stir the pot.

The dispute centered on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, whom a House panel on Wednesday voted along party lines to hold in contempt for failing to furnish documents related to the botched gun operation dubbed Fast and Furious. Hours prior, President Barack Obama had invoked executive privilege over the documents — his first use of the powers in response to a congressional investigation.

The fight over Fast and Furious — a sting operation in which American agents lost track of more than 1,000 Mexico-bound guns — began last year but intensified dramatically this week as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee took up the contempt measure against Holder. (Find a timeline of the week's developments here, courtesy of the Tribune's Taylor Cammack.)

And on Wednesday, while Democrats dismissed the controversy as a partisan witch hunt, Texas Republicans joined the fray.

U.S. Senate candidates Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst both called for Holder's removal. Dewhurst tweeted: "A good first step, but not good enough. Now, Mr. Holder, it's time for you to resign!" Cruz's Twitter take: "We deserve accountability from Holder. And if he won’t resign, House should commence impeachment proceedings."

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Corpus Christi Republican and member of the oversight committee, slammed Obama over his use of executive privilege. "If you apply executive privilege to every internal discussion in every government agency, you might as well pack this committee up and go home because there’s nothing to be investigated," Farenthold said in a committee hearing, according to the Houston Chronicle.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who last week called on Holder to resign, wrote in a Facebook post, "Today’s vote could have been avoided, but the AG and President Obama’s insistence on stonewalling left no other option."

Unless Holder provides the documents in question, the full House will vote on the contempt measure next week.

Culled:

  • According to new scores released by the state, elementary and middle school students appear to have fared relatively well on the state's new STAAR tests, The Dallas Morning News reports. Students answered about two-thirds of the reading questions correctly, and seventh graders performed particularly well in science, with which many schools struggled in the state's previous testing system, TAKS. Interpreting the scores, though, remains difficult: The state won't set passing standards until the fall.
  • Plans to build a medical school in Austin gained traction in May after the University of Texas System committed to the project. Now, though, a nonprofit group called the Austin Fund for Quality Healthcare has launched a campaign to get the public on board with the proposal, which has been brewing for years. As the Austin American-Statesman reports, the group has sent out fliers and made automated calls noting, in part, the importance of finding funding for the project.
  • Historic furnishings were returned to the Governor's Mansion on Wednesday, marking the near-completion of the building's restoration. Gov. Rick Perry and his wife are expected to return to the mansion in late July, about four years after an arson attack destroyed the building's roof and front windows.

“Just as I use the post office, I use government highways, I use the banks, I use the federal reserve system, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work to remove this in the same way on Social Security. In the same way with Social Security, I am trying to make a transition." — U.S. Rep. Ron Paul in an appearance Wednesday on MSNBC's Morning Joe

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