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

The assault weapons ban is all but dead, and mandatory background checks are touch and go. Three months after the Newtown shooting, prospects of Congress passing a broad gun control package have dimmed considerably.

Tuesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters he hopes to move gun legislation to a vote "as soon after Easter" as he can, with the aim of pursuing mandatory background checks as well as reforms to laws involving gun trafficking, access to mental health and safety in schools.

"We cannot have votes on everything unless I get something on the floor. It's a legislative impossibility," he said. "I'm not going to try to put something on the floor that won't succeed; I want something that will succeed. I think the worst of all worlds would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there."

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Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) issued a prepared statement Tuesday afternoon calling for a separate floor vote on a high-capacity ammunition clip ban, after legislation that includes the policy along with an assault weapons ban was sidelined by Democratic leadership.

Murphy said:

I'm thrilled that the leadership in the Senate is committed to moving forward on a package of common sense gun safety legislation when the Congress reconvenes in April—families in Newtown and across the country deserve a robust debate on efforts to reduce gun violence. While the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 is an incredibly important part of this debate, I continue to believe that a more targeted ban on high capacity magazines is an equally effective way to reduce casualties in episodes of mass violence. I believe we need to have a separate floor vote on a high capacity magazine restriction, and I look forward to working with other senators in the coming weeks to develop a reasonable restriction on large volume magazines that can gain bipartisan support.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told reporters Tuesday that he's extremely happy with Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) support for comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants.

"Just extremely happy that he is where he is," Flake said. "It's an effective voice."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) applauded Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) Tuesday after he came out for normalizing the status of illegal immigrants in the United States.

"I think it's very helpful," Graham told reporters. "He represents the libertarian corner of the party and embracing a pathway to citizenship is a constructive step for the party as a whole."

"I think it helps to step out and say this is a practical solution to a hard problem."

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) responded Tuesday to Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) newfound support for comprehensive immgiration reform including normalizing the status of undocumented immigrants.

"I think it's fine," he said. "I don't know. It means that when every senator makes up their mind, I hope all 100 will support what we come up with."

"I just heard that he supports a path to citizenship. I've been busy. I don't analyze peoples' speeches," he said. "I think it's fine. I also think it's fine that the RNC yesterday came out for immigration reform as part of their agenda. ... Anybody who agrees with it, it's helpful."

McCain and Paul recently clashed over the issue of U.S. drone policy.

A proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to ban certain assault weapons and high-capacity magazines will be excluded from a Democratic-led gun reforms package expected to reach a full Senate vote in the coming weeks, Feinstein's office tells TPM.

The decision by Democratic leaders, first reported by Politico, reflects that despite White House support, the assault weapons ban's climb to Senate passage may be too steep.

The bill passed the Judiciary Committee last week on a 10-8 party line vote.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is facing criticism for his new budget proposal from an unexpected source: conservative policy wonks.

Virtually all of them found something to like in his plan. But they voiced substantial critiques in three flavors: lament that the entitlement reforms don't go far enough, arguments that Obamacare repeal and a 10-year balanced budget are not feasible, and worries that the plan fails to broaden the GOP's reach among voters.

The criticisms reveal a divide between conservative thinkers, who are hungry for policy innovation in the Republican Party, and its top policy guru, who remains wedded to a set of ideas that served his party badly in the 2012 elections.

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Senior House Democrats took aim Tuesday at the hazy mathematical assumptions in Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Vice Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge (D-OH) touted their alternative budgets in a morning press briefing and aggressively criticized Ryan over his GOP proposal.

"Earth to Chairman Ryan. Come in, Chairman Ryan. Come back to Earth," said Becerra. "Because people want to work. People want to make sure the earned benefits they paid for are there for them when they finally need them. ... Come back from space."

Fudge said that "if anyone can add or subtract, they can look at the Ryan budget and know that it doesn't add up. Mathematically it doesn't make any sense. ... The Ryan budget is based on a premise that is false from the beginning." She went after him for claiming he'll repeal the Affordable Care Act while assuming its higher taxes and Medicare cuts.

"Did Ryan indicate which planet they're on?" said Crowley.

The nine Supreme Court justices appeared narrowly divided along ideological lines in oral arguments Monday about whether states may require people to submit proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, as a 2004 Arizona law necessitates.

As is often the case, the most ambivalent was Justice Anthony Kennedy, who channeled the views of both sides during different parts of the argument.

At one point, Kennedy wrestled with whether Arizona's proof-of-citizenship requirement crosses a line. He asked the state's attorney general, who was defending the law, whether states may also require proof of one's address or date of birth when registering to vote. If so, he posited, then the federal requirement "is not worth very much."

At another point, he launched a defense of Arizona's actions in principle and took issue with some of the reasoning by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against Arizona.

"The state has a very strong and vital interest in the integrity of its elections," Kennedy said, "even when those, and perhaps especially when those are elections of federal officials. And it seems to me the Ninth Circuit's new test did not give sufficient weight to that interest."

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Justices Antonin Scalia and Sonia Sotomayor clashed Monday during Supreme Court oral arguments about whether states may require residents to submit proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The outcome of the case is uncertain as the justices appeared narrowly divided.

The case involves an Arizona law adopted in 2004 that requires proof of citizenship prior to registering to vote (Prop 200). Challengers argue that it should be struck down because it violates a 1993 federal law (the National Voter Registration Act) requiring states to accept a registration form that lets most voters register to vote when renewing their drivers licenses or applying for social services, simply by attesting under oath that they are citizens.

Much as they did weeks ago during arguments over the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, the two justices on Monday each led the charge on opposite sides of the case -- Scalia for less federal involvement in states' ability to set their voting laws, and Sotomayor for broad national authority to protect citizens' right to vote.

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