The Supreme Court Takes up Texas Redistricting

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from March 1, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.


R. TED CRUZ, TEXAS SOLICITOR GENERAL: The Te xas Legislature acted because in their judgment Texas deserved a map where the majority of the voters could elect a majority of the congressional delegation. And that’s exactly what happened under the plan passed in 2003.

J. GERALD HEBERT, COUNSEL FOR LEAD PLAINTIFFS: This was the most notorious political power grab in the history of our country. It was done for one purpose, and that was to bludgeon Democrats.


BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, those are the views expressed by the two lawyers before the Supreme Court Wednesday about the Texas redistricting plan which allowed that state, which had become majority Republican, to have a congressional delegation that was majority Republican. Democrats took exception to it, saying this was done in an unconstitutional way, that it constituted the second time that the state was redistricted in 10 years. So the matter is now in the hands of the justices.

Analytical observations now from Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors, all.

This matters because the Texas Republicans gained, what, five new seats — five seats as a consequence of redistricting, which directly affects the balance of power in the House of Representatives, so the outcome of this case has real national implications. So, based on what we know about the arguments today and the way the justices questioned the lawyers, what do we think? Mort?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, there are three grounds that the court could overturn this thing. One is — two different constitutional grounds. One, that this was excessively partisan. Another was that it was amid decade redraw and the third is that the Voting Rights Act was violated.

Now, as to the excessive partisanship of it, the — this corrected a Democratic gerrymander. This was a gerrymander. There was one district that you showed there in green that’s 300 miles long; the DeLay map is a gerrymander. But it corrects the Democratic gerrymander. And under the old Democratic map, the Republicans had a minority of the seats in Congress even though...

HUME: Despite having a majority in the electorate.

KONDRACKE: Even though that had 59 percent. Now they have 60 percent of the vote in 2004 and they got 65 percent of the seats. So, it doesn’t seem to be excessively partisan.

There is some ground to think that minority districts were diluted, that the minority power in districts were diluted. But whether — but the number of African-Americans went up by one and the number of Hispanics.

HUME: The number of African-Americans elected, you mean?

KONDRACKE: Elected, yeah — went up by one. And the number of Hispanics stayed the same. So, it’s pretty hard to say how...

HUME: Juan, what about you?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: I think in this case — you know, if you look back at what the court has done they’ll say this is an opportunity for the court to act because they believe that partisanship is involved. I really do believe it comes down to an issue of partisanship. If you’ll recall, Tom DeLay went after changing the make-up of the legislature to increase the Republican representation in 2002, and that’s what then led to this second redistricting plan. And as a result of what he did, I believe it’s six, not five. It went from 15 members to 21 members, Republicans coming into the Congress from the state of Texas. That’s a big difference. And I think at that point the court is going to say, listen, this was evidently partisan and we’re going to...

HUME: But wait a minute, based on the questions that the justices asked today, do you detect that drift, or do you detect something else?

WILLIAMS: No. I don’t detect any drift at the moment. I don’t think it’s possible to make a conclusion on the basis of what took place Wednesday.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, on the basis of the report that we had from Justice Department had looked at this before the second redistrict, and they approved it. They didn’t think that there was any violence being done to minority rights in this situation, although the challenge was coming from some of the civil rights...

HUME: But, you think, Juan, there’s a real chance the court may throw the whole thing out?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, I go back to something Charles was talking about, these two new members of the court, Alito and Roberts. If you look back to what Rehnquist and O’Connor did, they were very reluctant to get involved.

The difference in this case, Charles, I would say is it’s the second effort — it’s doing redistricting in the middle of that 10-year span.

KONDRACKE: Well, on the basis of the record, Kennedy is the swing vote. And Kennedy in a previous case said that if he could figure out a standard of partisanship and excessive partisanship that he might find it. Now, judging by his questions today, he hasn’t found the new standard and he doesn’t think this was excessively partisan.

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