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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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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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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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While defending Republicans' effort to defund Planned Parenthood over a series of "sting" videos targeting the organization, presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush doubted the $500 million or so in federal funds currently going to support health services offered at clinics is even necessary.

"You can take dollar for dollar -- though I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues -- but if you took dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine organizations ... to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues," Bush said Tuesday, speaking at a the Southern Baptist Convention.

A Senate bill that failed to overcome a filibuster Monday would have redirected the $500 million to other women's healthcare providers such as federal community health centers. Planned Parenthood defenders argue those health centers to not have the capabilities to handle the influx of patients that would arise if Planned Parenthood could no longer use federal funds to treat women.

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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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Donald Trump is the man to beat at Thursday’s GOP debate, where the Republican presidential candidates trailing him in the polls will attempt to outmaneuver the billionaire’s rhetorical body-slams.

Much of the focus has been on Trump’s hard line on immigration, with other 2016 candidates divided as to whether “The Apprentice” star has carried the party too far to the extremes. However, on a variety of other policy positions, Trump has shown himself to be at odds with the traditional Republican platform. Here’s which issues conservatives wishing to outflank Trump should attack him on:

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