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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

White House fiscal commission co-chair Erskine Bowles told TPM on Wednesday morning that Rep. Tom Cole's (R-OK) call for Republicans to accept President Obama's tax offer in the short term is "a step forward." He said he intends to tell House GOP leaders that later in the day.

"I think it's a step forward," Bowles told TPM before a Washington breakfast with reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor. "Republicans are going to have to talk about revenue, and Democrats are going to have to talk about real spending cuts, particularly in the entitlement programs."

"It'll be okay," he said, referring to extending 98 percent of the Bush-era tax rates for now. "But it has to be done in conjunction with reducing spending. And otherwise we don't solve the problem. So revenues is only one part of the equation. The other part of the equation is getting these entitlement programs under control."

Asked what he intends to tell House Republican leaders when the meet later in the day to discuss the fiscal cliff, he said, "Exactly what I just told you."

Seven naked protesters swarmed the office of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Tuesday for some 20 minutes of loud chanting against cuts to AIDS funding.

Among their chants: "Boehner, Boehner, don't be a dick, budget cuts will make us sick." And: "Fight AIDS. Act up. Fight back." And: "End AIDS with the Robin Hood tax, no more budget cuts on our back." And: "Budget cuts are really rude, that's why we have to be so lewd."

The screaming, fully-nude protesters stood still in the center of the office, together in a line but facing in different directions. The room quickly filled up with members of the activist groups they belong to, observers taking photographs, a handful of reporters, and, eventually, police.

After police showed up and repeatedly threatened to arrest the protesters for indecent exposure, they eventually put on their clothes and walked out of the Speaker's office. The three female protesters stuck around in the hallway to speak to reporters and were arrested anyway; the four male protesters appeared to get away, the organizers said.

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The Supreme Court has reopened a challenge to key provisions of the Affordable Care Act -- one that was dismissed by a lower court last year on technical grounds, but could now become the staging ground for a new judicial fight over a piece of the law known as the employer mandate.

The challenge was brought by Liberty University, which charged that the law's individual and employer mandates violate the institution's religious freedom. The Virginia-based Christian college, founded by Jerry Falwell, argues that the law's requirement that large organizations provide employees insurance could lead to the forced funding of abortion, which it says violates the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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House Republican leaders will meet on Wednesday with Erskine Bowles, the former Clinton White House chief of staff who co-chaired President Obama's fiscal commission, according to Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office.

The Bowles-Simpson commission devised long-term debt reduction policies worth trillions of dollars in spending cuts and new tax revenues.

“People in both parties agree we need a ‘balanced approach’ to deal with our deficit and debt and help our economy create jobs," Boehner said in a statement. "As we’ve seen in recent days, the American people support an approach that involves both major spending cuts and additional revenue via tax reform with lower tax rates. We look forward to talking to Mr. Bowles and other members of the coalition about their ideas to avert the ‘fiscal cliff’ without tax hikes that target small businesses and cost jobs."

The Supreme Court on Monday reopened a lawsuit brought by Liberty University against the Affordable Care Act's individual and employer mandates, which was dismissed by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals last year on technical grounds.

Because the Court ruled that the Anti-Injunction Act does not apply, it has permitted the case to move forward. Liberty charges that the mandates violate the institution's religious freedom.

A vast majority of elected Republicans have signed Grover Norquist's pledge not to raise taxes, and GOP leaders have strictly hewed toward it for years.

But things have changed: anti-tax purity went out of style this election year, and the nearing "fiscal cliff" is motivating some influential conservative Republicans to speak out against Norquist's pledge, wherein lawmakers promise to vote against any legislation that would raise new tax revenues.

Not only does Norquist's pledge forbid signatories from raising tax rates, it requires that they "oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

Here are seven key Republicans who have abandoned the pledge:

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Republican lawmakers are increasingly abandoning Grover Norquist's no-taxes pledge and declaring a willingness to raise tax revenues as part of a deal to avoid the severe austerity measures set to take effect in January.

On the Sunday talk shows, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called for raising revenues by scaling back tax deductions and credits.

"I would be very much opposed to raising tax rates, but I do believe we can close a lot of loopholes," McCain said on "Fox News Sunday." He said that could be achieved by imposing "a limit on the amount of deduction on charitable giving, a limit on the amount you can take on your home loan mortgage deduction."

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Appearing Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Sen. Lindsey Graham explained his disagreement with Grover Norquist's no-taxes pledge and said his party needs to put tax revenues on the table for debt reduction.

Well, what I would say to Grover Norquist is that the sequester destroys the United States military. According to our own secretary of defense, it would be shooting ourselves in the head. You'd have the smallest Army since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1915, the smallest Air Force in the history of the country, so sequestration must be replaced. 

I'm willing to generate revenue. It's fair to ask my party to put revenue on the table.  We're below historic averages.  I will not raise tax rates to do it. I will cap deductions. If you cap deductions around the $30,000, $40,000 range, you can raise $1 trillion in revenue, and the people who lose their deductions are the upper-income Americans. 

But to do this, I just don't want to promise the spending cuts. I want entitlement reforms. Republicans always put revenue on the table.  Democrats always promise to cut spending. Well, we never cut spending. What I'm looking for is more revenue for entitlement reform before the end of the year.

Graham added:

I love being a senator, and I want to be a senator that matters for the state of South Carolina and the country.  When you're $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece, and Republicans -- Republicans should put revenue on the table.  We're this far in debt.  We don't generate enough revenue.  Capping deductions will help generate revenue.  Raising tax rates will hurt job creation.  

So I agree with Grover, we shouldn't raise rates, but I think Grover is wrong when it comes to we can't cap deductions and buy down debt.  What do you do with the money?  I want to buy down debt and cut rates to create jobs, but I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that Social Security should be left alone when it comes to deficit reduction.

"Social Security does not add one penny to the deficit," he said. "Not a penny."

Medicare, however, faces more compelling near-term solvency problems, he said, but he argued that it could be adjusted without harming beneficiaries.

"Those who say don't touch it, don't change it, are ignoring the obvious," Durbin said.

Retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that the American public ought to do some "self-criticism" if they dislike the results of their electoral choices.

"People act as if we're in a bubble and we just were self-generated," he said. "If the public doesn't like the result, they should do a little self-criticism. ... At any given time America is governed by the results of an election."

He appeared alongside retiring Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

He offered one way to help prevent gridlock: "Everybody should sign a pledge never to sign a pledge."

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