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

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told NBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday that the National Rifle Association is lying about his legislation to expand mandatory background checks to gun shows and Internet sales.

"Now when they are so disingenuous and tell members that our legislation that they would criminalize the firearms by honest citizens -- this bill does not even touch [them]," said Manchin, who has an "A" rating from the NRA.

Host Joe Scarborough interjected: "That's a lie."

Manchin responded: "It is a lie."

"If you lose credibility -- if you don't have credibility, you have nothing," the senator said. "I would hope they correct that [or] they've lost everything in Washington."

[h/t HuffPost]

The Senate is set to vote Wednesday afternoon on the Manchin-Toomey legislation to expand background checks, a Democratic leadership aide said Tuesday night.

It's a moment of truth for the centerpiece of Congress's efforts to curb gun violence -- the first major effort in nearly two decades. Defeat would be a huge blow to the cause and to the families of the Newtown, Conn. shooting victims who have urged Washington to act.

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced Tuesday night she won't support the Manchin-Toomey background checks legislation, a blow to the bill's prospects of securing the necessary 60 votes to pass. A vote on the measure is expected Wednesday afternoon.

Murkowski's full statement below:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today decided that she will not be supporting the Manchin-Toomey gun legislation and will instead support an alternative amendment proposed by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA):

“Alaskans have been watching the Senate debate gun legislation closely, because they want to keep Americans safe as much as anyone but don’t believe they need to compromise their 2nd Amendment rights to get there.

“We all agree that we want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable, but there’s a number of paths to the same destination.  A lot of attention has been paid to the Manchin-Toomey amendment, but an alternative has been presented by Senator Charles Grassley, my Republican colleague from Iowa.  I believe his legislation is more in line with the views of Alaskans because it accomplishes our shared goals without adding any new steps or layers of bureaucracy for any law-abiding Alaskan who wants to purchase a firearm for sport or protection.

“I support Senator Grassley’s substitute amendment because it strengthens the existing background check process, enforces our already-tough federal laws on the books, works harder to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, addresses gun trafficking and straw purchasing, and ensures our schools are as safe as possible.

“I hear Alaskans clearly – and I hear their calls for action and answers to violence.  I will continue to fight for their rights as well as the lives of their loved ones.”

The Senate is set to vote on the Manchin-Toomey background check legislation Wednesday around 4 P.M., according to a Democratic leadership aide -- a moment of truth for the centerpiece of Congress's efforts to curb gun violence.

As of Tuesday it remained unclear whether the Manchin-Toomey measure had the necessary 60 votes to pass. Democrats have been considering new carve-outs in an effort to win over skeptical conservative senators.

As of roughly 6:00 P.M. Tuesday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told TPM they were working hard to secure the votes but appeared less than certain the bill would pass.

It's the first of nine amendments that Democratic and Republican leaders agreed to hold votes on as part of the gun legislation filed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Other amendments include a Democratic bill to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and a GOP measure to ensure that a concealed carry permit obtained in one state applies to all states.

Senate Democrats were desperately working Tuesday to keep alive the modest bipartisan legislation to expand mandatory background checks to some gun sales, claiming momentum in public and offering new concessions to skeptical senators in private.

The epic struggle to pass even a minimal tightening of gun laws -- a scaled-back version of the universal checks that 90 percent of Americans support -- is yet another testament to the power of the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, which opposes the compromise.

Read More →

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) offered some details on the investigation into the Boston bombings late Tuesday after an FBI briefing.

"The device itself has tracers with explosives," he said. "The device itself has built in ball bearings. There are signatures to these things and they can be traced back to the origin and so that forensics is taking place right now."

He said he expects more information "in the next couple of days." Of the likely explosive material, he said, "Most likely it was black powder. Gunpowder."

He also explained how the FBI is approaching the investigation.

"They were going down two ledes: one a possible cellphone detonation. The second would be a pressure cooker with a timer on it," McCaul said.

"The device is in [U.S. Marine Corps Base] Quantico, it's being reviewed for forensics. And they can do incredible stuff. So I'm very optimistic at the end of this forensics we're going to know a lot more about he origins of this bomb, where the materials came from. And that's going to shed a lot more light in terms of [whether the attack was] foreign or domestic."

Asked if the two explosive devices were similar, he said, "My sense is they probably are."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters Tuesday that the Saudi national reportedly questioned in relation to the Boston Marathon bombings is not a suspect.

"As far as I know, he is not a suspect. That's as far as I know," she said. "See this is the problem -- we really don't know. We know one thing. It qualifies, in my book, as a terrorist attack."

"I think it's sort of a forensic slog right now," Feinstein said, "of doing everything that needs to be done to secure what is a huge crime scene. Take down probably hundreds of security cameras, go through the film minute by minute, hour by hour and try to follow forensic evidence."

President Obama said earlier Tuesday that the FBI is investigating the bombings as a terrorist attack.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said he still hasn't decided whether he'll support the Manchin-Toomey background check legislation but reaffirmed that he's favorably disposed.

"I'm favorably inclined," he told reporters in the Capitol Tuesday afternoon. "I haven't made up my mind."

Asked what would win his support, he said he'd like to examine it some more and is "concerned about the Internet aspect of it."

McCain said he has "no idea" what changes the two senators are considering in order to win over skeptical members. "I'm not involved in that," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) misspoke during floor remarks Tuesday morning -- and gave conservatives an attack line against him.

Introducing the gun bill, Reid meant to say "anti-gun violence legislation," according to his prepared remarks. He said "anti-gun legislation." Then a few seconds later he described it as "anti-gun violence legislation."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a vociferous gun control opponent, took note on Twitter:

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) are considering changes to their background check legislation in an effort to win support from rural senators and secure the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

TPM confirmed the news with a Senate aide familiar with the talks, who cautioned that no changes are final. The bill as it stands appears to be short of 60 votes.

The senators are considering exempting dealers who live more than one hundred miles from a firearm licensee from having to conduct background checks on their buyers.

The aim is to entice lawmakers who want to support expanded background checks but are from predominantly rural states, such as Sens. Lisa Murkowski (D-AK), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

The move could delay consideration of the amendment, which was expected to be taken up Wednesday.