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Sahil Kapur

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.

Articles by Sahil

Obamacare has put Republican governors in a pickle.

Ambitious GOP governors in blue and swing states -- including Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Rick Scott of Florida -- have yet to decide whether to accept the law's Medicaid expansion. And they're in a tight squeeze between conservatives demanding they turn it down, on one hand, and the enticing offer of a large sum of federal money on the other.

Republican governors broadly criticized the Medicaid expansion after the Supreme Court made it optional last summer. Christie praised that part of the Court's decision, calling it "extortion" to force states to broaden Medicaid. Scott initially said he'd opt out before later hedging. Walker, Kasich and Snyder expressed concerns but deferred until the election.

Now the election is over, and the Affordable Care Act isn't going anywhere, forcing them to make a tough decision.

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Barney Frank has endorsed fellow Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) to become the next senator from Massachusetts.

"Ed Markey should be and will be the next senator. Ed and I have worked together in Congress and, before that, in the legislature," Frank said on MSNBC's "The Last Word" Wednesday night. "I would like to think of this as something of a kind of a relay team."

Frank reiterated that he wants to appointed interim senator between John Kerry's anticipated departure to become secretary of state and the special election to fill his seat.

Rick Santorum has launched a new campaign to thwart the confirmation of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense, accusing him of being "anti-Israel."

For his opening salvo, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania and 2012 presidential candidate issued a lengthy statement attacking Hagel.

"I strongly oppose President Obama's nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense because his confirmation would send a dangerous signal to Iran and other radical Islamic elements which would make our country and our allies less secure. President Obama inadvertently whispered his "flexibility" to Russian dictators, and then nominates someone for Secretary of Defense who tipped off the Iranians that he would not use strength to prevent them from obtaining nuclear weapons. I also have concerns over Hagel's disrespect for our strongest ally in the Middle East, Israel.  Time after time, Sen. Hagel has sought to distance the United States from Israel and refused to stop efforts to end terrorist attacks on Israel.

"While I respect Sen. Hagel's service to America, I cannot stand by and support his nomination.  His anti-Israel, pro-Iran mindset makes him uniquely unqualified to serve as our Defense Secretary.

"I opposed the nomination of Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, in 2006, because his position on Iran and radical Islam was weaker than the president that nominated him.  Likewise, President Obama has nominated someone who is weaker on these vital national security issues.  This country cannot afford someone in a key position of advising the president to be even more lenient and passive on the Iranian nuclear threat than President Obama has been to date.

"I understand defeating Hagel's nomination will not be easy, but as we learned with our efforts to defeat the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) treaty, it is a battle worth taking on.  Just last month, we won our fight to stop CRPD, and for the safety and security of our nation, I intend to win the fight to stop the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary." 

Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott has rejected the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. And now he's in hot water for apparently inflating the cost of the expansion to Floridians in order to justify his decision.

The website Health News Florida reported Tuesday that Scott was warned in letters by the state legislature's top economist and budget analyst that his administration's figure -- that the expansion would cost the state $26 billion over 10 years -- was false.

Scott's aide reportedly said, in emails obtained by HNF, that the figure was based on the assumption that the federal government -- which is tasked with paying for the vast majority of each state's Medicaid expansion for the first decade -- would not fulfill its promise.

But after the report was published and caused a stir, including scathing criticism from Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Scott said through a spokeswoman that his Agency for Health Care Administration would consider alternate cost estimates.

"AHCA's report concluded that adding people to Medicaid under the new law would cost Florida $26 billion over 10 years," said Scott's aide Melissa Sellers. "Others have asked AHCA to use different assumptions to calculate different cost estimates. We look forward to reviewing those cost estimates as well."

Castor accused Scott -- a former hospital executive who rose to national prominence in 2009 while campaigning against the ACA -- of deliberately deceiving Floridians.

"Not only did Gov. Scott manufacture flawed cost estimates, but it appears he had been advised that the numbers were flawed and used them anyway," Castor said in a statement. "Florida Legislative Appropriations staff advised the governor's office that the numbers were misleading, but it appears that the governor ignored it. ... Clearly this was not a mistake. Knowing that the numbers are wrong and using them anyway is."

The Scott administration's Medicaid figures were disputed by multiple nonpartisan analyses.

"There are three things the Governor has stressed that remain unchanging in this important discussion about cost estimates," Scott spokeswoman Sellers said. "First, growing government is never free. Second, the number of people in Medicaid would nearly double with the new law (from approximately 3.3 million today to over 6 million). And third, once government grows, it is almost never undone. The fiscal cliff debate in Washington is proof enough of that. Additionally, as the AHCA report points out, federal projections on growing government have a long history of being much lower than actual costs."

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is pushing Massachusetts' governor to appoint retired Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) as the state's interim senator to replace John Kerry.

Frank has said he wants the position when Kerry leaves to become secretary of state, for which he is expected to be easily confirmed.

The liberal advocacy group launched their campaign in an email to supporters and unveiled the website AppointBarneyFrank.com.

"As Elizabeth Warren takes a principled stand against cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, we can't afford to have our other senator be lukewarm, undecided, or uncertain. We need someone who we are 100% confident will fight right alongside her. Barney Frank is that person," PCCC wrote in an email.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico announced Wednesday that she will accept the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, according to The Associated Press.

The move makes her just the second Republican governor to take up the expansion, which makes people within 133 percent of the poverty line eligible for the program and is critical to the law's coverage expansion. Unlike Democratic-governed states, most GOP-led states have rejected the expansion, which the Supreme Court made optional.

In all of U.S. history, just 9 presidential nominees for cabinet positions have been rejected by the Senate. And just 12 were withdrawn before coming to a Senate vote, according to the official Senate record.

The eye-opening statistics provide context to upcoming Senate confirmation processes as President Obama seeks to reshape his cabinet for a second term, including the selection of Chuck Hagel to lead the Pentagon.

The Senate has historically granted the president broad deference on such decisions. Nominations tend not to be derailed unless ethics lapses make the candidate politically toxic, experts say.

"Most felled nominees were tripped up by personal mistakes or questionable ethics," said Sarah Binder, a Senate expert and professor at George Washington University, pointing to John Tower, Zoë Baird, Linda Chavez and Tom Daschle. Binder says nominees, such as John Ashcroft, have been subject to opposition due to policy views but are ultimately confirmed.

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Then-Sen. Chuck Hagel's remark to the Omaha World-Herald in 1998 that Clinton ambassadorial nominee James Hormel was "openly aggressively gay" was only a part of what Hagel told the paper about his opposition to Hormel's nomination.

In additional comments that appeared in the same Omaha World-Herald story on July 3, 1998, Hagel said that Hormel's gay conduct in public goes "beyond common sense" and concluded that a gay performance group of men in drag as nuns was "anti-Catholic" upon seeing a video of Hormel at one of its events.

Hagel told the paper at the time that being gay shouldn't disqualify a candidate from being an ambassador, but that Hormel's conduct would diminish his effectiveness.

Hormel "very aggressively told the world of his gayness and the funding and all the things he's been involved in," Hagel was quoted as saying. "I think you do go beyond common sense there, and reason and a certain amount of decorum."

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Denying decorated war hero and foreign policy luminary Chuck Hagel the Pentagon's top job will be a daunting task for his opponents.

But Republicans are spoiling for a fight against President Obama over the nomination of the former GOP senator for secretary of defense. If their early hostility matures into a broad party line, Hagel's prospects for confirmation could hinge on the Democrats who have so far declined to endorse the heterodox Nebraskan for the key cabinet post.

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Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) tweeted his reaction Tuesday morning to the nomination of Chuck Hagel to become the next secretary of defense. 

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