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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

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reacted to the bipartisan immigration framework unveiled Monday afternoon with cautious praise and a call for continued bipartisanship.

He said in an afternoon statement:

“Reforming our broken immigration system and securing our nation’s borders are crucial objectives that our nation needs to address and I appreciate the hard work that has gone into the framework announced today. When the President addresses this issue Tuesday, I hope he will take a bipartisan approach rather than delivering another divisive partisan speech.

“In order for any reform to be successful, congressional committees will have to review and write legislation through regular order, and all members must have an opportunity to debate and amend any legislation that comes to the floor. This effort is too important to be written in a back room and sent to the floor with a take-it-or-leave it approach. It needs to be done on a bipartisan basis and include ideas from both sides of the aisle.”

House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office reacted positively on Monday to the framework for immigration reform put forth by a bipartisan group of senators.

"The Speaker welcomes the work of leaders like Sen. Rubio on this issue, and is looking forward to learning more about the proposal in the coming days," said Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel.

House Republicans will not seek to shut down the government if Democrats don't agree to cut spending when funding expires at the end of March, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Sunday on NBC's Meet The Press. At the same time, Ryan predicted that the sequester's across-the-board spending cuts to domestic programs and defense are unlikely to be avoided.

Ryan, the House Budget chairman, signaled that even though Republicans will push hard for spending cuts, they are "more than happy" to continue spending at levels written into law if the alternative is a government shutdown.

"We're not interested in shutting the government down," Ryan said.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is taking credit for defeating filibuster reform and preserving the GOP's ability to block legislation.

The Kentucky Republican's 2014 re-election campaign fired off a fundraising email to supporters after the finalization of the bipartisan rules change agreement, which passed Thursday night. The agreement negotiated by McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) leaves the 60-vote threshold in tact but speeds up the legislating process.

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Nine months after he was accused by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner of attacking contraception and sexual freedom, billionaire conservative financier Foster Friess offered his retort: "Contraception's been very, very good to me."

At a Friday breakfast In Washington hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Friess -- who helped finance Rick Santorum's presidential campaign last year and ran into trouble for wryly saying that in the past women put aspirin between their knees for contraception -- said female voters were "seduced" by Democrats into believing Republicans were waging a "war on women," and lamented that Republicans didn't do more to defend themselves.

"I am absolutely stunned how the Democrats were able to somehow say that the Republicans had a war on women. ... What was the war on women? They tried convince that somehow Santorum was going to do this, that Republicans were against contraception," he said. "Hugh Hefner said, this guy Friess wants to reverse the sexual revolution. Well, I have four kids. They're two years apart. And contraception's been very, very good to me."

Friess smiled as the reporters in the room laughed.

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For true believers, filibuster reform was about making it painful, if not impossible, for a Senate minority to obstruct governance by the majority. But it didn't come anywhere near that, leaving reformers deeply disappointed.

The final agreement reached by leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell and passed overwhelmingly by the Senate Thursday evening did not weaken the filibuster. It essentially served to move uncontroversial Senate business more quickly. Democratic senators roundly backed it -- even the ones who were eager to end silent filibusters. Republicans didn't object either.

How did it all fall apart?

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Updated: 1:25 P.M.

After the Senate voted on a broad bipartisan basis Thursday night to make modest rules changes to streamline Senate business, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he reserves the right to make further rules changes -- but only through regular order.

"If these reforms do not do enough to end the gridlock here in Washington, we will consider doing more in the future," Reid said in a statement.

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Despite strong criticism from progressive supporters of reform, Senate Democrats rallied around the scaled-back filibuster deal negotiated by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday afternoon, broadly agreeing that the changes to the rules were at least a step in the right direction.

After a caucus meeting, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters that there's overwhelming support for the agreement among Democrats, despite the protestations of those who wanted more sweeping reforms.

"That's how this world works. People start aspiring at very high levels, then you get a negotiation, then you reach something called compromise," he said. "There's a very positive feeling among the people in our caucus. But the fact that the two leaders have been able to work it out together is great for the Senate."

Asked by TPM if the deal will make it easier to pass bills, Durbin briefly hesitated. "It requires good will," he said. "Good faith."

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Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said in a statement late Thursday that he's disappointed with the modest, bipartisan filibuster agreement reached by Senate leaders. He signaled that senators will be determined to revisit the issue if the deal does not end Senate paralysis.

The statement from Merkley, the leading Senate champion of weakening the filibuster:

“The Senate spoke clearly today: the paralysis of the Senate is unacceptable.  Senators of both parties have recognized the need for change, and supported several steps to make the Senate more functional.

“These steps are modest, and don’t address the core problem of the secret, silent filibuster, but they do include some important elements, providing flexibility on the motion to proceed and speeding up the confirmation process on nominations.

“I would like to have gone further. In particular, I believe that if 41 Senators vote for more debate, then Senators should have the courage of their convictions to stand on the floor and make their case in front of the American people. Then the American people could decide if obstructing Senators are heroes or bums.

“I’m disappointed that we didn’t take a bolder step to fix the Senate, but what is most important today is the deep determination of Senators to return the Senate to a more functional institution. If the modest steps taken today do not end the paralysis the Senate currently suffers, many Senators are determined to revisit this debate and explore stronger remedies.

“We have a responsibility to address the big issues facing our country. I’ll keep working with my colleagues to achieve that goal.”

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), a leading proponent of the "talking filibuster" proposal that was sidelined in the bipartisan deal, said late Thursday that he will nevertheless support the agreement.

Udall's statement:

"For more than three years, I've been committed to changing the Senate rules so that Congress can effectively respond to the needs of the country. The Constitution has been the catalyst for reforming the current filibuster and that marks a breakthrough.

"The agreement that's been struck is a combination of rules and behavioral changes, and not as strong what many of us have been advocating. However, it alters the way we deal with nominations, conference committees and motions to proceed -- all things I've been working toward. The leaders have also agreed to make filibusters more transparent and bring objectors to the chamber for actual debate. I am supporting their efforts to get a bipartisan agreement today, and moving forward will continue to fight for the stronger filibuster reforms my colleagues and I believe will make the Senate a more accountable institution.

"We've come a long way toward reforming the Senate and the filibuster in the last three years. We've made progress, but I'm not done fighting to change the way we do business. It's true what my Uncle Mo used to say: 'Reform is not for the short-winded.'"

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