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

House Democrats came away from a closed-door meeting with President Obama on Thursday expressing openness to his proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare, after he assured them he would never cut entitlement benefits unless Republicans yield on tax increases.

After the meeting with Obama, several key Democrats expressed an openness to entitlement benefit cuts as part of a broader budget bill that includes higher taxes. Their statements run counter to the hoary conventional wisdom in Washington that Democrats are just as stubbornly opposed to cutting safety net spending as Republicans are to higher taxes.

"I'm willing to keep my powder dry until I see what's on the table," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told reporters. "It's the context that matters to me. I'm not willing to absolutely rule anything in or out. ... But I'm not willing to give anything away for free."

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House Republicans unanimously voted down a measure Friday that would have raised the federal minimum wage, from its current $7.25 per hour to $10.10 by 2015.

Six Democrats joined 227 Republicans in voting it down; 184 Democrats voted yes.

The legislation was proposed as a last-minute amendment upon passage of the SKILLS Act, which reauthorizes a jobs training program. The procedural move, known as the motion to recommit, was invoked by Democrats with the instruction that the minimum wage amendment be tacked on to the SKILLS Act, an aide said.

An increase in the minimum wage to $9 was backed by President Obama during this year's State of the Union, and immediately shot down by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who argued that it would drive up unemployment by making it harder for small businesses to hire.

Democrats believe it's a winning issue for them, and Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the author of the amendment, offered a glimpse into how they intend to talk about it.

"Even while corporate profits soar and the stock market reaches new highs, the working poor continue to fall further and further behind," Miller said in a prepared statement. "If the Republicans want to take away a priority of service for low income Americans who want to learn new skills for a better job and a better life, the least we can do is make sure these workers get a decent wage."

Just weeks after hearing a challenge to the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court will take up another important case about the ability of Americans to participate in their democracy.

The Court will hear oral arguments Monday in a case about whether a state law in Arizona, which requires proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, violates a federal law designed to make it easier for Americans to be placed on the voting rolls.

The National Voter Registration Act, passed by Congress in 1993, requires state governments to let most voters register to vote when renewing their drivers licenses or applying for social services -- as long as they attest to being U.S. citizens. Proposition 200, an Arizona measure adopted by voters in 2004, takes it a step further and requires documented proof of citizenship prior to registering to vote, which the NVRA form does not require. The Court will decide whether or not the Arizona law violates the NVRA.

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Senate Democrats want to finalize and pass legislation to require expanded background checks for gun purchases, but they are having a hard time finding Republican support despite earlier momentum following the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters Thursday that he hopes to bring background checks legislation to the floor "as soon as we can."

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Senate Democrats issued a report Thursday seeking to highlight dubious arithmetic in the budget proposal unveiled this week by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

The memo -- cheekily titled "Paul Ryan's Hocus Pocus Budget" with a photo of a magician on the cover -- shines a light on five problematic elements of Ryan's plan. It offers a glimpse into how Senate Democrats will seek to discredit Ryan's proposal as they advance their first budget resolution in four years, which does not purport to balance the federal budget but seeks to lower and stabilize the deficit in the long term.

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President Obama is seeking to push Republicans to work with him on a grand deficit bargain by first assuring them he's willing to cut entitlements, and then attempting to scrape off enough of them who will in turn agree to raise new revenues.

House Republicans emerged from a rare meeting with Obama on Wednesday afternoon saying he assured them he was serious about cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare in order to reduce the long-term deficit.

"It was a really great first step," said Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI). "He did express a willingness to give on entitlements."

"He focused a lot on entitlements," said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL).

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday aggressively criticized the Medicare cuts under Obamacare -- cuts which are also included in the House GOP budget that was unveiled Tuesday. In echoing the familiar Republican attack line on the President, Cruz did not reference the budget proposal from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that adopts the same cuts.

"Obamacare took $716 billion from Medicare, a large portion of which came from the Medicare Advantage program which serves a great many seniors, and especially poor seniors," Cruz said on the Senate floor. "According to the Office of the Actuary at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Medicare advantage cuts in Obamacare will reduce enrollment from 14.8 million to 7.4 million by 2017. It will cut it in half. Seven million people will lose their coverage under Medicare Advantage." (The actuary also found that those who lose coverage under Medicare Advantage, an optional program under which seniors can receive coverage through a private insurer, would remain covered under traditional Medicare.)

"I would remind you the president said if you like your health insurance, you can keep it," Cruz said. "Yet seven million seniors are losing Medicare Advantage."

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told Sean Hannity Wednesday on his radio show that House Republicans intend to continue targeting Obamacare.

He explained that House Republicans did not go after the law in their must-pass legislation to keep the government open because that "would risk shutting down the government. That is not our goal. Our goal is to cut spending."

"Do you want to risk the full faith and credit of the United States over defunding Obamacare?" Boehner said. "That's a very tough argument to make."

Boehner's remarks shoot down calls by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other conservatives to threaten a government shutdown if Democrats insist on funding Obamacare in its entirety.

Senate Republicans tried and failed Wednesday to attach an amendment to stopgap government funding legislation that would have defunded the Affordable Care Act -- the 34th GOP attempt to dismantle the legislation.

The Senate moved forward Wednesday morning with stopgap legislation to fund the government past March 27 -- similar to that passed by the House.

The chamber proceeded to open debate on the bill after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) dropped his objection. Two amendments are set to be voted on, one of which strips funding for implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who crafted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as part of the 2010 financial reform law and initially helped lead it, excoriated Republicans on Tuesday for refusing to confirm a nominee to lead the agency.

"From the way I see how other agencies are treated, I see nothing here but a filibuster threat against Director Cordray as an attempt to weaken the consumer agency," she said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the CFPB nomination. "I think the delay in getting him confirmed is bad for consumers, it's bad for small banks, it's bad for credit unions, it's bad for anyone trying to offer an honest product in an honest market.

"The American people," Warren said, "deserve a Congress that worries less about helping big banks and more about helping regular people who have been cheated on mortgages, on credit cards, on student loans, on credit records."

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