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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

Convening the 113th Congress Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called on Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to be more willing to rely on Democrats to help him pass bills, like he did with the fiscal cliff legislation.

"As Speaker Boehner saw on New Year’s Day, when he allows every member of the House to vote – and not only the Republican members of the House to vote -- Congress can enact bills into laws," he said on the floor. "No major legislation can pass the Senate without the votes of both Democrats and Republicans. During the 113th Congress, the Speaker should strive to make that the rule in the House of Representatives, as well."

In short, Reid appears to be urging Boehner not to worry about the so-called Hastert Rule -- which involves securing a majority of votes within the majority's caucus before letting the chamber vote on bills.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced Thursday that he will use a procedural move to extend the first legislative day of the 113th Congress in order to leave room for filibuster reform via constitutional option, if need be.

He said on the Senate floor:

"The Senate is simply not working as it should…  But I believe this matter warrants additional debate during the 113th Congress. And Senators deserve additional notice before voting to change Senate rules. So today I will follow the precedents set in 2005 and again in 2011.  We will reserve the right of all Senators to propose changes to the Senate rules.  And we will explicitly not acquiesce in the carrying over of all the rules from the last Congress.  It is my intention that the Senate will recess today, rather than adjourn, to continue the same legislative day, and allow this important rules discussion to continue later this month. I am confident the Republican leader and I can come to an agreement that allows the Senate to work more efficiently."

A Democratic aide involved with filibuster reform expects the legislative day to last until roughly Jan. 22.

Filibuster reform is in trouble, proponents warn, at the hands of a scaled-back proposal they say would enhance rather than diminish the Senate minority's power to obstruct.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) says his proposal to force filibustering senators to occupy the floor and speak ceaselessly could be in jeopardy, thanks to a new bipartisan filibuster package that he and his ally Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) argue would do more harm than good to the cause.

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In a new op-ed for Yahoo News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) defends the fiscal cliff agreement he helped broker as imperfect but necessary to avoid a bigger tax hike.

He also seeks to provoke President Obama into a debate over the upcoming debt limit increase, which the president has promised not to have.

McConnell writes:

Predictably, the President is already claiming that his tax hike on the “rich” isn’t enough. I have news for him: the moment that he and virtually every elected Democrat in Washington signed off on the terms of the current arrangement, it was the last word on taxes. That debate is over. Now the conversation turns to cutting spending on the government programs that are the real source of the nation’s fiscal imbalance. And the upcoming debate on the debt limit is the perfect time to have that discussion.

We simply cannot increase the nation’s borrowing limit without committing to long overdue reforms to spending programs that are the very cause of our debt.

The only way to achieve the balance the President claims to want is by cutting spending. As he himself has admitted, no amount of tax hikes or revenue could possibly keep up with the amount of money Washington is projected to spend in the coming years.

New York Republicans and Democrats are publicly furious with Speaker John Boehner for abruptly cancelling an expected vote late Tuesday night on a relief package for victims of superstorm Sandy.

The Senate recently passed an aid package for Sandy victims worth $60 billion, a price tag that made many House Republicans nervous. So they decided to divide it up into two parts: $27 billion and $33 billion. The first part was vetted by appropriators for wasteful spending but the second wasn't. And most of the latter chunk would not have been spent in the first year, anyway. So one school of thought was to vote separately on both and let the chips fall where they may.

The likely upshot was that the House would immediately authorize $27 billion for victims and give themselves time to determine, in the next Congress, how much of the rest was necessary. A two-track vote was expected after the bill to avert the fiscal cliff. But it never happened. Why was it pulled?

Wednesday morning on the House floor, New York Republican Reps. Peter King and Michael Grimm blamed Boehner for what they described as a betrayal.

"It was entirely the speaker's decision," said a GOP leadership aide, who doesn't work in Boehner's office. "As to why we're not voting on it now? That's a question I can't answer."

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After shelving the legislation Wednesday night, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) intends to prioritize relief for victims of superstorm Sandy in the new Congress, his office said.

"The Speaker will make the supplemental his first priority in the new Congress," a Boehner aide told TPM.

The aide said Boehner has shared his intentions with members of the New York and New Jersey delegations.

Late Tuesday night, President Obama praised the House's passage of the Senate-approved fiscal cliff agreement to prevent a variety of tax hikes on middle class Americans.

The bill now heads to the president's desk. He thanked Vice President Joe Biden and all four congressional leaders for their work.

"Everybody worked very hard on this and I appreciate it," he said.

Obama called for additional deficit reduction in the form of "further reforms to our tax code" and spending cuts. But he reiterated his vow not to play games with the debt limit again.

"I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills for laws they have already racked up," he said.

Updated 11:30 p.m. ET

Legislation to avert the fiscal cliff has passed both chambers of Congress. The Senate passed it in the first few hours of 2013 and the House approved it shortly before midnight Tuesday. President Obama will soon sign it into law.

In short, the bill lets a variety of taxes increase for affluent Americans, averts most middle class tax hikes and leaves entitlement programs untouched. Here's a rundown of the details, according to a White House summary.

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Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told TPM that if House Republicans amend the Senate bill to include spending cuts they'll effectively kill the deal.

"If they do that'll kill the package," he said after a Democratic caucus meeting.

"I would not predict what these people will try to do because they are in thrall to extremists," Frank said. "But if they amend this I don't know how they think they -- an amendment basically says, our ideology is too rigid and we're not really trying to really [reach a deal]."

Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office said his members have expressed "universal concern" with the agreement's lack of spending cuts. Rumors on Capitol Hill are that the House GOP is considering amending the legislation and sending it back to the Senate.

House Democratic leaders demanded an up-or-down vote on the Senate deal on Tuesday afternoon.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) declined to discuss whether a GOP amendment to include spending cuts would threaten the bill.

"Look, the country deserves an up or down vote on the compromise bipartisan bill that passed the Senate," he told TPM. "What we're calling for is an up or down vote. Let democracy work its will. ... Let's just take this step by step."

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