In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A panel of one of the nation's most notoriously conservative appeals courts in the country delivered a victory to voting rights activists. While the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Texas’ voter ID law -- known as one of the strictest in the country -- on narrow grounds Wednesday, it also set the stage for further challenges to restrictive voting laws under a crippled Voting Rights Act, which celebrated its 50th anniversary Thursday.

Critics have claimed that the types of identification Texas law required voters to present - allowing gun permits but not student ID cards, for instance - have made it harder for Democratic-leaning minority, younger and lower income people to vote.

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While many eyes will be directed at the fireworks expected during Thursday's GOP debates, a more ominous storm is looming over Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are set to leave for their long August break, despite facing a number of high-stakes deadlines right around the corner. When lawmakers return, they will be under an intense time crunch to resolve battles over everything from Iran to Planned Parenthood funding to a possible government shutdown.

Adding to the chaos is a White House race where GOP contenders in the Senate will be looking to make a splash. Congress will come back the week after Labor Day -- which falls especially late this year -- and its tight window will be further interrupted by two Jewish holidays and Pope Francis' visit to the Capitol.

Here are the battles to watch out for:

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A longtime fixture in the political orbit of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and his father, Ron Paul, was indicted Wednesday in an alleged bribery scheme concerning the elder Paul's 2012 presidential bid.

The investigation has been years in the making, and the indictments unveiled on Wednesday were the closest yet to land to the Paul family.

Here are three things you need to know about how development ties into the Kentucky senator's presidential campaign and the Republican primary.

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A couple who has already gained widespread attention for their opposition to same-sex marriage has been appointed to Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) Iowa team, his presidential campaign announced Tuesday.

Having decided to close their business -- an art gallery and event space in a former church -- over their refusal to host a same-sex wedding, Dick and Betty Odgaard are also behind a new campaign to erect 1,000 billboards asserting that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman.

The first billboard for the campaign has already gone up and contains the following quote: "'Please ... I need your help with this!' -- God"

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said on Tuesday the idea of granting undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship — one he supported in 2010 — "is garbage."

Instead, the 2016 candidate said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, cracking down on businesses that hire immigrants who are here illegally is the best way to solve the problem.

"I met lots of undocumented folks in my state over the course of my time as governor, I can tell you not one of them has ever said to me that they had come here to vote. This path to citizenship stuff is garbage," Christie said. "That's not why they're coming. They're coming to work and support their family."

He went on to outline his plan to use E-Verify and fines to discourage businesses from hiring undocumented immigrants.

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A conservative lawmaker wants to halt the national refugee program that helps immigrants seeking humanitarian asylum in the United States settle into their new communities.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) introduced a bill last week that would suspend the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied "the costs of providing benefits to such individuals, and for other purposes."

“It is extremely unsettling that the Obama Administration would continue to expand the U.S. resettlement program at such an irresponsible pace in light of our economic and national security challenges,” Babin said in a statement announcing the bill's introduction. “While this program may be warranted in certain situations, it is continuing at an unchecked pace. For the past decade the U.S. has been admitting roughly 70,000 new refugees a year, with little understanding of the economic and social costs on our communities.

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