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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

Updated: 3:10 P.M. ET

The bipartisan Senate compromise on background checks appears to suffer from a crucial flaw that could reduce its effectiveness, experts and gun control advocates fear, although they broadly say it's an important step toward preventing criminals from obtaining guns.

The proposal unveiled Wednesday by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) would expand mandatory background checks to gun shows and Internet sales. But it would exempt criminal checks for private, non-commercial sales of firearms or transfers between friends or family members. The legislative language is not final yet but the senators have promised those exemptions to background checks for gun purchases.

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The Senate voted 68-31 on Thursday to send gun control legislation to the floor, passing a key test vote but setting up a much more painful battle toward final passage.

Sixteen Republicans joined all but two Democrats to back the procedural motion. Many of the GOP lawmakers who voted for the motion to proceed don't support the bill, and warned that they may not vote to allow a final up-or-down vote. But they decided not to eschew the debate.

"I welcome a debate on gun control and you should too," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

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The National Rifle Associated announced Wednesday night that it will grade lawmakers' votes on the final procedural motion and passage of the background checks compromise unveiled by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), forcing senators to choose between supporting the proposal and protecting their NRA pro-gun credentials.

The organization, after initially offering a muted statement, said it opposes the bill. But it did not indicate that the votes would count toward the ratings that the organization releases during election season. An NRA spokesman did not respond to multiple queries in the afternoon about whether it would score lawmakers' votes.

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The National Rifle Association doesn't support a bipartisan Senate agreement unveiled Wednesday to expand background checks for some gun purchases. But so far, the powerful gun industry lobby also isn't committing to targeting lawmakers who vote for the proposal.

If that position holds, the NRA could tacitly give conservative senators in both parties the green light to help pass the compromise legislation through the Senate.

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President Obama praised the agreement struck Wednesday between Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) to expand mandatory background checks to gun shows and Internet sales.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, he called on Congress to "finish the job."

I applaud Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their leadership on forging a bipartisan agreement around commonsense background checks that will make it harder for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun.

This is not my bill, and there are aspects of the agreement that I might prefer to be stronger.  But the agreement does represent welcome and significant bipartisan progress. It recognizes that there are good people on both sides of this issue, and we don’t have to agree on everything to know that we’ve got to do something to stem the tide of gun violence.

Of course, a lot of work remains.  Congress needs to finish the job.  The Senate must overcome obstruction by defeating a threatened filibuster, and allow a vote on this and other commonsense reforms to protect our kids and our communities.  Any bill still has to clear the House.  So I’m going to keep asking the American people to stand up and raise their voices, because these measures deserve a vote – and so do the families and communities they’re designed to protect.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), two senators with an A rating from the National Rifle Association, announced Wednesday that they have reached a bipartisan deal to expand background checks for gun purchases.

The measure is less restrictive than President Obama and Democrats hoped for. It would require criminal background checks for firearm purchases at gun shows and Internet sales, but would exempt non-commercial, private sales and transfers between friends and family members.

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) "remains committed" to filibustering gun control legislation after a bipartisan deal on background checks was announced Wednesday by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), his office said.

"[T]he senator remains opposed to expanded background checks as they inevitably set a path to a national gun registry," Cruz's spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told TPM in an email. "He remains committed to his plan, along with Sens. Paul and Lee and 11 other senators, to prevent passage of legislation that will infringe on all law-abiding Americans' constitutional rights. Legislation addressing the issue of gun violence must focus on keeping guns out of criminals' hands."

The upcoming debate over confirmation of U.S. Principal Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan to the country's second highest court is seen by Democrats as a pivotal moment in the interconnected debates over gridlock of judicial nominations and Senate filibuster rules.

Srinivasan, President Obama's nominee to fill the seat vacated in 2005 by now-Chief Justice John Roberts on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, where Republicans intend to quiz him on his judicial temperament and views on the Constitution.

"We haven't had a new person on that court since 2006 or [200]7. Some say it's a court more important than the Supreme Court of the United States. [Republicans have] blocked ... new people coming on that court," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters Tuesday. "We're going to have this young man -- we hope that that can be done very quickly."

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Vice President Joe Biden delivered an emotional speech to law enforcement officials about the need for gun control Tuesday at the White House, the latest front in the Obama administration's all-out push to build support for the effort.

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) scheduled a preliminary vote on gun control legislation for Thursday, the vice president stood before cameras and told stories about Americans he's spoken with who are desperate to see congressional action. It was an attempt to tap into the emotional core of the gun control debate, and it came after the White House flew families of victims of the Newtown, Conn., massacre to Washington to lobby for tougher laws.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused the "political left" of bugging his campaign headquarters after a secret tape emerged of a strategy session regarding Ashley Judd's potential candidacy and her mental health.

"Well, as you know, last month my wife's ethnicity was attacked by a left-wing group in Kentucky and then apparently they also bugged my headquarters," McConnell said during his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon. "So I think that pretty well sums up the way the political left is operating in Kentucky."

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