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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

Even the most popular gun control measures seem to be going nowhere in the Senate.

Despite a concerted push from President Obama, Democratic leaders see no clear path to securing the 60 votes needed to break a promised Republican filibuster and ensure passage of legislation mandating background checks for gun purchases. Along with getting no help from Republicans, numerous Democrats facing re-election next year are skittish.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) released a video on Monday of numerous Republican senators signaling openness to beefing up gun background checks in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shooting. It's an effort to ramp up pressure as he aims to bring a gun bill to the floor amid an uphill battle on background checks.

Among the Republicans who expressed willingness to support legislation enhancing background checks are Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Dean Heller (R-NV). Others like Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) didn't rule out the idea when asked in TV appearances.

A senior Republican congressman is seeking answers from the Obama administration on why the draft application form for Obamacare benefits asks if the applicant wants to register to vote.

The White House has said it's simply following a 1993 law called the National Voter Registration Act, which seeks to let people register to vote when applying for social services.

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued a statement Thursday vowing to use "any procedural means necessary" to thwart President Obama's gun reforms in the Senate, after the president pushed Congress on Thursday to act.

"In any conversation about how to prevent future tragedies such as Sandy Hook, our focus should be on stopping criminals from obtaining guns. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has failed to make this a priority — in 2010, out of more than 15,700 fugitives and felons who tried to illegally purchase a firearm, the Obama Justice Department prosecuted only 44. That is unacceptable.

"It is saddening to see the President today, once again, try to take advantage of this tragic murder to promote an agenda that will do nothing to stop violent crime, but will undermine the constitutional rights of all law-abiding Americans. I am committed to working with Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, and Jim Inhofe--and I hope many other colleagues--to use any procedural means necessary to protect those fundamental rights."

 

Flanked by a group of mothers who support gun control at the White House Thursday, President Obama issued a stern warning to members of Congress that he'll continue pressuring them to enact legislation to curb gun violence.

"Don't get squishy because time has passed and maybe it's not on the news every single day," Obama said, calling on them to "follow through on commitments" made at the time.

"We need everybody to remember how we felt 100 days ago and make sure that what we said at that time wasn't just a bunch of platitudes," he said, referring to the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting that galvanized gun control efforts. "That we meant it."

Obama talked up his proposals coming up in the Senate after Easter. He focused on mandatory background checks for gun purchases, observing that the policy is supported by 90 percent of Americans, including more than 80 percent of Republicans and gun owners.

"When do 90 percent of Americans agree on anything?" he asked, declaring that none of his proposals would violate the Second Amendment or harm responsible gun owners.

His remarks are directed not merely at Republicans, who are refusing to champion background checks, but also to red state Democrats who are skittish about the policy.

The president called on all Americans who support beefing up gun laws to call their representatives and pressure them to sign on. "This is our best chance in more than a decade to take common sense steps that will save lives," he said. "I want everybody who's listening to make yourself heard right now."

"Tears aren't enough. Expressions of sympathy aren't enough. Speeches aren't enough. We've cried enough. We've known enough heartbreak," he said, flanked by a group of mothers who support gun control. "Now's the time to turn that heartbreak into something real."

Obama's speech provoked an immediate response from right-wing detractors of gun control. In a statement moments after it ended, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) attacked Obama's proposals and called his speech "deeply unfortunate." His spokesman Brian Phillips tweeted that Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and James Inhofe (R-OK) have joined Lee and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) in pledging to filibuster new gun legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) office on Thursday lambasted a threat by a handful of Republican senators to filibuster gun legislation, after President Obama urged Congress to act in a televised speech.

"While this threat is entirely unsurprising, it's outrageous that these senators are unwilling to even engage in a debate over gun violence in America," Reid's spokesman Adam Jentleson said in a statement to TPM. "No matter your opinion on this issue, we should all be able to agree with President Obama when he said that the children and teachers of Newtown, along with all other Americans who have been victims of gun violence, at least deserve a vote."

The threat to vote against a motion to begin debating the bill was made in a letter by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), which was cosigned by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Thursday.

If oral arguments this week were any indication, Justice Anthony Kennedy appears to hold the deciding vote in the two major same sex marriage cases. In his line of questioning, the Reagan-appointed jurist considered the possibility of a middle path that involves some important progress for the cause while falling short of enshrining marriage equality across the nation.

The justices will meet Friday to cast initial votes on the validity of California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Decisions on the two separate cases are not expected until late June, leaving plenty of time for Kennedy or others to change their minds.

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Chief Justice John Roberts told a Starbucks cashier near his Maryland home Tuesday morning that he was hit by credit card fraud, according to the Washington Post.

Roberts reportedly paid in cash after saying he had to cancel his card. It was the same day as oral arguments on a major same sex marriage case.

Apparently the Starbucks cashier wasn't the only one Roberts told, according to the Huffington Post's Sam Stein.

Shortly after President Obama's speech urging Congress to follow through on gun control, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced Thursday that he has cosigned a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) vowing to filibuster new gun legislation.

Rubio said:

"We should look for ways to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill prone to misusing them, but I oppose legislation that will be used as a vehicle to impose new Second Amendment restrictions on responsible, law-abiding gun owners. We should work to reduce tragic acts of violence by addressing violence at its source, including untreated mental illness, the lack of adequate information-sharing on mental health issues, and the breakdown of the family."

The letter was written by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).

At a White House event touting gun law reforms, President Obama said the country has a unique chance to address gun violence as legislation to mandate background checks and ban assault weapons comes up for a Senate vote.

"All of [these proposals] are consistent with the Second Amendment," he said. "None of them will infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners. What they will do is keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who put others at risk. ... None of these ideas should be controversial."

"This is our best chance in more than a decade to take common sense steps that will save lives."

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