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Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) showed no signs of cooling his ongoing beef with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and even brought the majority leader up during the GOP top-tier debate Thursday.

When asked about "Kate's Law," a proposal to crack down on certain undocumented immigrants, Cruz said:

"Not only will I support it, I have authored Kate's law in the United States Senate and filed that legislation. I tried to get the Senate to vote to pass Kate's law on the floor of the senate just one week ago and the leader of our own party blocked a vote on."

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To kickoff the first GOP top-tier debate, the moderators went straight for the red-haired elephant in the room and the answer Donald Trump gave them will not help the Republican National Committee breathe more easily.

When the 10 participants were asked to raise their hand if they were unwilling to pledge their support to the GOP nominee and not run as a third-party candidate, Trump put his hand up after a quick glance at his rivals.

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal suggested he would use the IRS to attack Planned Parenthood during Thursday's GOP debate for lower-tier candidates.

"I guarantee you under President Jindal, January 2017 the Department of Justice and IRS and everybody else we can send from the federal government will be going into Planned Parenthood," Jindal said

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Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry took a swing at Ronald Reagan -- the 40th president who is typically the subject of worship among conservative circles -- for signing legislation that made millions of undocumented immigrants eligible to apply for legal status in 1986.

"Americans are tired of hearing this debate want to go to, 'What are you going to do about illegal immigration?'" Perry said during Thursday's GOP debate for lower-tier candidates. "For 30 years this country has been baited with that, all the way back to when Ronald Reagan signed a piece of legislation that basically allowed for amnesty for over 4 million people and the border is still not secure."

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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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The Maine state Supreme Court said Thursday that the 65 pieces of legislation that Gov. Paul LePage (R) missed the deadline to veto should be considered laws. The justices sided with state lawmakers who refused to take up the vetoes in mid-July because the typical 10 day period the governor has to act on legislation had lapsed.

LePage argued that lawmakers had taken a type of adjournment that prevented him from returning the vetoes, and under the state constitution he was allowed to wait until legislators reconvened for more than three days to send back the bills. Statehouse leaders of both parties, as well as most legal experts, had disagreed with the governor's interpretation of the constitution.

The justices -- issuing a 47-page opinion in what is known as a "solemn occasion" that was requested by the governor -- said the state constitution was "ambiguous" on the issue, but that "context, governmental tradition and practice, and judicial precedent" had guided their decision.

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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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