The White House pushed back this afternoon against allegations from Texas Republicans that the Justice Department is overreaching its authority by trying to reimpose preemptive U.S. oversight of Texas elections. Not so, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One to Florida. Earnest noted that Texas political maps for years “have attracted quite a bit of controversy… I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that’s been following this that that’s attracted the attention of the Department of Justice.” Attorney General Eric Holder’s announced this morning that he would seek a court order forcing Texas to submit any and all election changes for federal review. The Supreme Court lifted that burden last month when it struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
In the last few hours, a chorus of Texas Republican officials have warned the administration not to mess with Texas. Gov. Rick Perry called the Justice Department’s plan an “end-run around the Supreme Court.” Sen. John Cornyn accused Obama of “bullying” tactics in pursuit of a partisan agenda. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, vowed that “I’ll fight Obama’s effort to control our elections.” Dallas Rep. Pete Sessions, a member of the House GOP leadership, called Holder’s move an assault on federalism.
“The administration is once again deliberately attempting to push its political agenda by selectively targeting Texas,” Sessions said.
The Supreme Court left open the possibility that Congress can modernize the Voting Rights Act and resume federal “preclearance” in Texas and other states with a history of bias. But most analysts see little hope of lawmakers finding a consensus.