The Big Conversation
The debate over voting rights in Texas took a new turn on Thursday as the Obama administration forcefully entered the fight.
In a speech to the National Urban League in Philadelphia, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration would fight back against last month's U.S. Supreme Court decision that gutted the federal Voting Rights Act.
Specifically, Holder said the Justice Department would ask a federal court to effectively restore in Texas a provision of the act that required several states to seek permission from the federal government before changing their voting laws. Soon afterward, the department filed briefs with a federal court in San Antonio.
Citing evidence of racial discrimination presented in a legal battle over the state's redistricting maps, Holder said in his speech that the Justice Department is "determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against such discrimination wherever it is found."
“This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision," Holder added, referring to the Supreme Court case. "But it will not be our last."
The announcement sparked fierce criticism from Republicans, who in Texas have approved election laws in recent years that have been blocked by courts or by the Obama administration.
"This end run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process," Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement.
Democrats, meanwhile, cheered the move, saying it may clear the way for another challenge to the state's redistricting maps and voter ID law, which Democrats and civil rights groups have said discriminate against minorities.
"The fact that intervention in Texas is the Department of Justice’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision speaks volumes about the seriousness of Texas' actions," said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, according to The New York Times.
• Davis raises money in D.C., but for what office? (Austin American-Statesman): "Texas Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, swept through Washington on Thursday with a high-dollar breakfast fundraiser in the morning, and a lower-budget affair in the evening, amid indications that she isn’t considering a run for lieutenant governor as an alternative to a run for governor or re-election to the state Senate. Matt Angle, founder of the Democratic Lone Star Project, which conducted a Twitter town hall with Davis between fundraisers, said speculation that Davis might find the lieutenant governor’s office a more inviting target actually misses the point. If Davis were to be elected to preside over a mostly Republican Senate, that majority could use Senate rules to strip the lieutenant governor’s office of much of the power that would make it worth holding."
• House and Senate Remain Divided on Road Funding Plan (The Texas Tribune): "Both chambers of the Legislature were filled with activity Thursday afternoon but they ended up essentially where they had started: waiting on House and Senate negotiators to come up with a transportation funding plan most lawmakers could agree on. There was little sign Thursday that the two chambers were any closer to finding common ground, even though Gov. Rick Perry has vowed to call them back for a third special session if they can’t get around the current impasse."
• GOP feuds over Obamacare tactics (Politico): "A brewing Republican versus Republican fight over whether to use a government funding measure to choke off Obamacare is splitting the party ahead of this fall’s budget battles. A growing number of Republicans are rejecting calls from leading conservatives, including Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, to defund the president’s health care law in the resolution to keep the government running past Sept. 30. … On Thursday, the dispute began to spill into public view, most notably when three Senate Republicans — including Minority Whip John Cornyn — withdrew their signatures from a conservative letter demanding defunding Obamacare as a condition for supporting the government funding measure."
Quote to Note: "She didn’t, but I did. I told her she should run for governor." — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to Politico on whether state Sen. Wendy Davis, in Washington on Thursday for two fundraisers, revealed her political plans
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