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Morning Memo: Let the shutdown politics begin

THEN SHUT IT DOWN: The U.S. government started shutting down early Tuesday after a bitter fight over the new health care law deadlocked the Congress and stymied every attempt to keep money flowing after the federal fiscal year ended at midnight. It was the first such collapse of the government in nearly two decades and there was no immediate way to know how long it would last or how it would end. Read more here.

NOW BLAME GAME BEGINS: Hours after the partial shutdown, the blame game started, with Democrats and Republicans trying to say the other party was responsible. North Carolina congressmen are in the crosshairs.

***Read more shutdown politics and a look at what Gov. Pat McCrory did as the impasse and a federal lawsuit against the state loomed -- it's all below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Pat McCrory strikes defiant tone against federal lawsuit, hires outside legal firm

UPDATED: Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday called the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit against North Carolina’s voting law “overreach and without merit.”

“I firmly believe we’ve done the right thing. I believe this is good law. And I strongly disagree with the action that the attorney general has taken,” McCrory told reporters.

The governor, dressed more casually than normal after his visit to the N.C. Zoo earlier in the day, struck a defiant tone in his remarks. He cast the legal battle as a matter of state’s rights, saying he would “defend our right to have common sense laws right here in North Carolina.”

Berger, Tillis call voting lawsuit 'baseless,' while Hagan, Democrats cheer move

Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis called the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit against the North Carolina voting law "baseless."

Reacting to the lawsuit, the two Republican legislative leaders issued a joint statement saying it is "nothing more than an obvious attempt to quash the will of the voters and hinder a hugely popular voter ID requirement."

"The law was designed to improve consistency, clarity and uniformity at the polls and it brings North Carolina’s election system in line with a majority of other states," the statement continued. "We are confident it protects the right of all voters, as required by the U.S. and North Carolina Constitutions.”

Meanwhile, Democrats and interest groups cheered the move, including U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who had urged the Justice Department to review the law.

Morning Memo: Feds to challenge N.C. voting law; Senate candidates scrap for cash

FEDS TO CHALLENGE NORTH CAROLINA’S VOTING LAW: The U.S. Department of Justice will file a lawsuit Monday to stop North Carolina’s new voter ID law, which critics have said is the most sweeping law of its kind, according to a person briefed on the department’s plans.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who has said he will fight state voting laws that he sees as discriminatory, will announce the lawsuit at noon Monday, along with the three U.S. attorneys from the state. Critics said the law will disenfranchise African-American and elderly voters, while the Republican-led General Assembly in Raleigh said the law will protect the state’s voters from potential fraud.

***Read more on the forthcoming lawsuit, get #NCSEN updates and a roundup of North Carolina political headlines below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: McCrory's approval slips again, as he defends voter ID and prepares veto pen

ALERT: PAT McCRORY'S APPROVAL RATING FALLS TO 39 PERCENT A new Public Policy Polling survey set for release later Thursday shows the Republican governor's approval rating dipping to the 30s for the first time in his term. It's a slight slip from a month earlier but indicates his approval rating is not improving as he signs controversial legislation on abortion, voter ID and guns. The Raleigh-based Democratic firm found McCrory's approval at 39 percent and disapproval at 51 percent. Another 10 percent are unsure. The numbers represent a huge point slide from when he took office in January with a 45 percent approval and 19 percent disapproval rating.

Another number in the poll suggests half of voters believe he broke his campaign pledge on abortion. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. Check Dome later today for more numbers.

NEW YORK TIMES A1 HEADLINE: North Carolinians fear the end of a middle way: The story rehashes the rightward shift from the legislative session and focuses on Pat McCrory's tough spot. Campbell Robertson writes: "In an interview, Mr. McCrory said that critics had obscured what he called a pragmatic and fiscally responsible agenda. “It’s a combination of people on the two extremes wanting to bring up and exaggerate controversial issues,” he said, adding that he had pushed back against earlier versions of the abortion and tax bills, and was planning to veto other bills this week." Read the full story here.

***The governor keeps threatening a veto. Find out the likely target below in the Dome Morning Memo. And get his thoughts on the voter ID bill.***

1376508601 Morning Memo: McCrory's approval slips again, as he defends voter ID and prepares veto pen The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

ACLU to challenge North Carolina's gay marriage ban

The American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it wants to challenge North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages by asking the state Attorney General to allow the group to amend an existing case on second-parent adoptions.

The announcement came less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. North Carolina’s constitutional ban on gay marriage remains. More on the lawsuit here.

At the same time, a national group outlined a strategy to push for the legalization of same-sex marriage in numerous states -- possibly including North Carolina by 2015-2016.

GOP lawyers don't have to turn over documents

The state Supreme Court ruled Friday that lawyers working for GOP leaders don't have to give redistricting communications to their opponents.

Democrats, civil rights groups and non-profits suing over the redistricting plans sought communications from GOP lawyers who worked for legislative leaders as they redesigned House, Senate and congressional districts. The lawyers were paid with state money, and the Democrats' lawyers argued that their communications should be made public, just as other legislative employee communications become public after new maps are approved.

A three-judge panel of Superior Court judges told Republicans to hand over the information, but legislative leaders appealed to the state Supreme Court, which agreed with Republicans.

"Without a clear and unambiguous statement by the General Assembly that it intends to waive its attorney-client privilege or work-product doctrine, we are compelled to exercise judicial restraint and defer to the General Assembly's judgment regarding the scope of its legislative confidentiality," the ruling says.

Justice Robin Hudson dissented, and Justice Cheri Beasley did not participate in the decision.

Dems ask for money to pay lawyers handling redistricting suit

Legislative Democrats sent out a fundraising letter today asking for money to pay for the Democrats' redistricting lawsuit.

Democrats, civil rights groups and nonprofits suing over the GOP-drawn maps have had some setbacks recently. Their effort to get state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby to recuse himself from redistricting decisions failed. The larger case is remains in front of a panel of three Superior Court judges. "Carrying this fight to the courts is an expensive proposition, but critical for the future of our state," the email says.

Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt of Asheville, House Minority Leader Larry Hall of Durham, Senate minority whip Josh Stein of Raleigh and House deputy minority leader Michael Wray of Gaston signed the email.

Judge dismisses lawsuit against Pat McCrory's campaign

From AP: A judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by opponents of Republican governor candidate Pat McCrory who wanted their commercials critical of the former Charlotte mayor declared true and constitutionally protected.  

Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway on Monday dismissed the litigation by North Carolina Citizens for Progress. The independent group has aired ads suggesting McCrory improperly lobbied for a real estate and lending business.   

Former staffer considers lawsuit against N.C. Democratic Party

An attorney for a former state Democratic Party staffer is considering a lawsuit against the party and its controversial chairman as the fallout continues from an alleged sexual harassment scandal.

Kieran Shanahan, a high-profile Raleigh attorney, sent a letter to Chairman David Parker on Tuesday asking him to preserve all records related to Adriadn Ortega's employment and complaints of sexual harassment from former Executive Director Jay Parmley. The notice is often a precursor to a lawsuit. 

"Sometimes someone thinks certain information hurts them and they begin to destroy it," said Shanahan in an interview Wednesday, explaining the letter.

Shanahan said he anticipates filing a legal action contending that Parker made defamatory comments about Ortega and the party violated a confidentiality and nondisparagement agreement as part of a financial settlement in which the party paid Ortega roughly $10,000 to end a federal discrimination complaint about sexual harassment. 

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