Under the unified message of "Don't Mess With Texas," the state's Capitol Hill Republicans on Thursday blasted Attorney General Eric Holder's plan to ask a federal court to reinstate the Justice Department's authority over voting laws in Texas.
The legislators charge that President Barack Obama administration's is ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court, playing partisan politics, and deliberately targeting the Lone Star State.
"By first going around the voters and now the Supreme Court, Attorney General Holder and President Obama’s intentions are readily transparent," said Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn. "This decision has nothing to do with protecting voting rights and everything to do with advancing a partisan political agenda.
“Texans should not — and will not — stand for the continued bullying of our state by the Obama administration,” he said.
"The Obama administration's war on Texas knows no bounds," said Rep. Ted Poe, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary committees. "Once again, this administration is singling out Texas — and the actions of the attorney general are being taken without just cause.
"The Supreme Court has already ruled that Texas was not in violation of the Voting Rights Act, but ironically, the attorney general who has been found in contempt of Congress holds the law in contempt.
"Whether in energy, federal disasters, IRS abuses or voting rights, this administration is at war with Texas," Poe said.
And Rep. Steve Stockman, also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, declared: "The attorney general is supposed to enforce the law, not make it up as he goes. The Supreme Court was clear in its ruling — and he is bound to obey it."
Holder said on Thursday that the Texas effort was part of a new Obama administration strategy to challenge state and local election laws it says discriminate by race.
"Based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented last year in the redistricting case, Texas v. Holder . . . we believe that the state of Texas should be required to go through a pre-clearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices," Holder told the annual conference of the National Urban League, a civil rights organization, in Philadelphia.
The White House has been seeking ways to attack voting discrimination since the U.S. Supreme Court in June invalidated a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The 5-4 conservative majority on the high court ruled that a formula used to determine which states and localities were subject to extra federal scrutiny was outdated.
The ruling freed Texas and certain other jurisdictions from having to submit their voting laws to the Justice Department before they could take effect.
The covered jurisdictions were primarily in the South, where a history existed of denying minorities the right to vote. But Chief Justice John Roberts noted in the majority opinion that the South had changed dramatically.
“In June, the Supreme Court found that it was unconstitutional to hold Texas and several other states to a different standard in the Voting Rights Act," said Rep. Lamar Smith, a member of the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees. "The court found that the actions of the past could not be held against current and future generations.
"The result of the decision is that Texas is no longer required to seek pre-clearance from the Justice Department before voting-rights laws can be implemented.
“In other words," Smith continued, "the Supreme Court's message to the Justice Department was clear: Don’t mess with Texas. But Eric Holder and the Justice Department aren’t listening. They have decided to continue their vendetta against Texas by asking a federal judge to reinstate the pre-clearance requirement.
“Texas has a right to pass and implement laws that protect the integrity of its elections. Citizens are required to show a valid form of identification to open a bank account, drive a car or board a plane.
"In fact, the Justice Department’s own policy requires visitors to show valid photo IDs before being allowed to enter some buildings," Smith said. "It is not discriminatory for Texas to require individuals to show a valid ID in order to vote.”
Rep. Blake Farenthold, whose committee assignments include Oversight and Government Reform, charged: “Once again, it's the federal government telling the states what they can and can't do. Even after some defeats on the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court, the administration still continues to thwart the will of the people of Texas.
"We're ending up wasting the taxpayers' money when the court has already telegraphed that the Voting Rights Act is constitutionally infirm,” he said.
Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the Rules Committee, was among several legislators who predicted that "the rule of law will prevail over politics and that the leaders of our great state will continue to preserve our fair election laws that represent the interests of all Texans."
“For a supposed constitutional law professor, President Obama and his administration sure seem to have trouble understanding and following the constitution — especially when it comes to the separation of powers," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the Financial Services Committee. "If I were one of the president’s students, I think I’d ask for my money back.
"The Obama Administration’s decision to circumvent the ruling of the Supreme Court and the will of the voters in Texas is nothing more than brazen attempt to advance the president’s stated political agenda."
And Rep. Joe Barton referenced Army Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's response when the Germans asked him to surrender at the Battle of the Bulge during World War II in 1945: "Nuts!"
"The people of Texas voted, elected officials acted and the Supreme Court ruled," said Barton, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. "Yet, once again, the Obama administration is ignoring the systems of checks and balances set up by the Constitution.
"The Voting Rights Act is still there to protect people from discrimination and protects every citizen’s right to vote.
"If an attorney general with a clear political agenda wants to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on a frivolous lawsuit, it is his decision," Barton added. "But I think it is wrong.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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