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

Stark divisions within the upper echelons of Mississippi's government have all but sunk the prospects for a state-run insurance exchange that would give residents greater power over their health care system.

The core division lies between Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who took office one year ago and is determined to stonewall the implementation of Obamacare, and state Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney, who believes that building an exchange as encouraged by the health care law is the right way to go.

That division is now on display: the Obama administration this week rejected Mississippi's application for a state-based exchange, filed by Chaney against his governor's wishes -- and blamed Bryant.

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Senate Democrats have scheduled the vote on final passage of the Violence Against Women Act for early next week -- either late Monday or Tuesday, according to Majority Whip Dick Durbin's (D-IL) office.

The vote on the completed bill was expected to happen by the end of this week, but additional time needed for debate and amendments, and the fact that the chamber is not in session Friday, led to it being postponed.

The measure enjoys strong bipartisan support.

A battle between Karl Rove and the far right is the latest front in a growing civil war for the heart and soul of the Republican Party and clarifies the contours of the struggle.

On one side are the establishment Republicans, who recognize the changing face of the American electorate and want their party to win elections in the future. In this battle, they are represented by Rove and his new Conservative Victory Project, unveiled this week, which is targeting unelectable (read: extremely conservative) candidates in Republican Senate primaries.

"There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected," Steven Law, who will run Rove's new effort, told the New York Times. "We don't view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win." Law is also president of the Rove-backed American Crossroads and CrossroadsGPS.

On the other side are the ultraconservatives, who believe the road to success involves full-fledged, uncompromising dedication to their tea party principles. These are right-wing groups like FreedomWorks and GOP Senate hopefuls like Reps. Paul Broun (GA) and Steve King (IA), who are the types of far-right candidates Rove is expected to target.

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After an outcry from Democrats, Michigan's Republican House speaker and governor on Thursday ruled out legislation introduced by Republicans requiring women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound prior to having an abortion.

"While I want to be sure women have access to the best technology available, I have absolutely no interest in forcing a woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound," House Speaker Jase Bolger said in a statement. "This House of Representatives will not pass a bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds."

Gov. Rick Snyder's office denounced the bill after the Speaker nixed it.

"Gov. Snyder is not at all supportive of this legislation and has zero interest in seeing it come to his desk," his spokeswoman Sara Wurfel told TPM.

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Michigan's House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) on Thursday categorically ruled out legislation introduced by his Republican colleagues to mandate transvaginal ultrasounds for women before having an abortion.

"While I want to be sure women have access to the best technology available, I have absolutely no interest in forcing a woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound," Bolger said in a statement. "This House of Representatives will not pass a bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds."

Gov. Rick Snyder's (R) office has declined to return multiple requests for comments.

Bolger added: "We must increase the value of life in Michigan because all life is valuable and no life is disposable. No matter a person's beliefs regarding abortions, I hope we in Michigan can come together on goals we can all agree on. Specifically, I hope we can improve pre-natal care. I hope we can increase support for women who may need it if they become unexpectedly pregnant. I hope we can improve and increase adoptions in Michigan. I hope that a woman who becomes unexpectedly pregnant and cannot keep her baby knows she will receive all the support she needs to have that baby and that a Michigan family will be able to quickly adopt, love and raise the child."


House Republicans "are not going to be able to vote for" a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a key GOP voice in the debate said Thursday.

"The people that came here illegally knowingly -- I don't think they should have a path to citizenship," Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), a tea party star and former immigration lawyer, said on NPR. "If you knowingly violated our law, you violated our sovereignty, I think we should normalize your status but we should not give you a pathway to citizenship."

Under Labrador's proposal, which reflects an alternate route sought by House Republicans, undocumented immigrants would receive a visa that allows them to live, work and travel in and out of the United States, but without the right to vote or become a green card holder or citizen.

"Some people are calling it a blue card or a red card," said the conservative Latino congressman. "I think we should treat them with dignity, but we should also be fair to millions of people that are waiting in line, that are trying to do it the right way. ... We have a large majority of the House of Representatives that wants to do something right now."

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Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) has fired his spokesman Phil Hardy for a mistaken tweet on the congressman's account, according to the Idaho Statesman.

The tweet read "Me likey Broke Girls" and was immediately deleted, but remains viewable through an archive of lawmakers' deleted tweets. His office apologized.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) called on House Republicans to drop their objections to the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act and take it up after the upper chamber passes it, which she said will happen by Friday morning.

"I really hope that House Republicans listen now to women and men across the country who say that women, no matter who they are, should be protected from violence," Murray told TPM in an interview.

Now that the Senate legislation has eliminated a procedural hurdle to House passage, she said, "There is no reason for them not to take this bill up and pass it."

House Republican leaders support reauthorizing VAWA but have resisted additional provisions that extend coverage to gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans who suffer from domestic abuse.

"I think they are hearing from a number of their moderate Republican women, particularly after the last election," Murray said. "I think they are looking bad hiding behind not moving a strong bill."

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) told TPM on Thursday that final passage of the Violence Against Women Act is on deck for late afternoon or Friday morning at the latest.

"I feel very confident that we will come out of today with a very strong bipartisan support for a very strong bill just as we have in the past," she said.

The Senate voted 85-8 earlier this week to move forward with the bill.

"Rick Snyder should come out publicly and denounce this extreme, Tea Party bill, which would invade women’s privacy and endanger their health with an unnecessary medical procedure,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said in a statement. "It’s time for Michigan Republicans to stop intruding on a woman’s relationship with her doctor and start focusing on jobs and the economy. Snyder says he wants to move forward from the divisiveness of the lame duck session. He can make progress toward that goal by stating for the record that he will veto this legislation if Lansing Republicans put it ‘on the agenda’ and send it to his desk."

TPM reached out to the governor's office again Thursday but did not immediately get a response.