In it, but not of it. TPM DC

At Supreme Court oral arguments in a case that could change the fundamental meaning of “one person, one vote,” the justices tiptoed around the racial and immigration issues that could explain why the case was at the high court in the first place.

The case, Evenwel v. Abbott, comes from Texas, a red state where Latinos are growing in political power. The challengers want the population of eligible voters, rather than total population, to be used to draw roughly equal districts under "one, person, one vote." Civil rights advocates argue that the challenge was brought in order to undermine the government’s ability to draw minority-majority districts and that using eligible voter population would give right-leaning white rural areas -- which have higher rates of eligible voters -- more political power.

Read More →

Donald Trump announced his proposal to ban Muslims from traveling to the United States just a few hours after a new poll showed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) leading the real estate mogul in Iowa, sparking speculation that Trump released the plan as a reaction to a slump in the polls.

A Monmouth University poll released on Monday showed showed Cruz earning 24 percent of Iowa Republicans' support and Trump earning 19 percent support. Other recent Iowa polls showed Trump maintaining the lead he has enjoyed there for months.

Read More →

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his campaign staff appeared unable to agree on how narrow the ban on Muslims entering the U.S. he proposed Monday should be.

Trump's camp began to argue Tuesday that the ban only applies to Muslims immigrating to the country. The original press release only mentioned immigration in the title, while the text of the proposal called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S." It was unclear whether that included U.S. citizens abroad. Some campaign staffers' comments to the media also contradicted Trump's remarks, further muddying the waters as to exactly which Muslims he would bar from entering the country.

Read More →

As Donald Trump blanketed the airwaves defending his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, he frequently stumbled when asked for concrete details of how such a ban would work.

How, for instance, would customs officials identify people as Muslim? Just ask them, Trump said.

Would the ban apply to U.S. citizens returning to the U.S. from abroad? At first his campaign said yes, it would. But Trump himself later seemed to indicate it would not.

Would there by any other exceptions? That appeared to be a work in progress, with Trump exempting certain subcategories of Muslims as interviewers pressed him.

The shoot-from-the-hip-first-and-ask-questions-later approach was typical Trump. Leaders lead. Details are for pedants. But it was particularly discordant as most of the political world recoiled over Trump's most xenophobic pander yet.

Read More →

The beauty – or horror, depending on your perspective – of a big, convoluted omnibus is that its sheer complexity allows for the inclusion of provisions that might be politically difficult or unpopular as standalone measures. The must-pass nature of an omnibus means the pressure is on lawmakers to agree to a compromise they may otherwise have rejected.

In addition to the budget agreement due this week, lawmakers are also hashing out a package of what’s known on the Hill as “tax extenders” – the annual reauthorization of various tax breaks – providing an additional opportunity for bargaining.

Behind the scenes, leadership is engaged in some high-stakes horse trading to settle on final deals to wrap up this year's legislative business.

What are the trade-offs to look for? Here’s a rundown:

Read More →

Almost everyone in the voting rights community agrees that the unexpected case challenging long-held assumptions about the concept of “one person, one vote” -- which is being heard by the Supreme Court next week -- could have devastating consequences. But a point of contention among experts is what threat a more incremental decision poses to the already crippled Voting Rights Act.

The case is called Evenwel v. Abbott. It is coming out of Texas, where the challengers are contesting the state legislature’s senate redistricting plan. At issue is whether the use of total population to draw districts -- as Texas and other states have near universally done -- is unconstitutional.

The challengers suggest that some other metric -- perhaps one that counts districts by citizens or by eligible voters -- is preferable. They say their votes have been diluted because they live in a district that has a higher percentage of eligible voters compared to district that is roughly the same size in total population, but has a lower rate of voter eligibility -- in part because of the presence of Latino noncitizens.

Read More →

Republicans have included a rider in a must-pass spending bill that enhances screening for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Democratic leaders rejected it, raising the stakes for a game of chicken over government funding.

Congressional leaders have already set spending caps, but are up against a Dec. 11 deadline to determine how that money should be spent. Controversial riders like the one on refugees endanger the process of meeting the deadline and expand the possibility that lawmakers may need to pass a short-term spending bill to extend the deadline to Dec. 18.

While Republicans and Democrats alike dismiss that there is any real threat of a shutdown, the issue of refugees specifically has the potential to trip up the ongoing negotiations over the omnibus spending bill.

Read More →