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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

A coalition of liberal advocacy groups is mobilizing its members to whip Democratic senators against voting for any deficit-reduction deal that cuts safety-net benefits.

The groups divide the caucus up into three categories -- the "weak-kneed," who they fear may agree to benefit cuts; the "wavering," who have signaled discomfort with the idea but haven't committed; and the "champions" whose support they're confident of. Via petition, they are urging their supporters to call their senators and ask for and record their positions on benefit cuts, with the dual goals of pressuring Democrats to oppose reducing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits and of providing their supporters continually updated information on where key members stand on the issue.

"Senators owe their constituents clarity about whether they'll stand up against any benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security," said Victoria Kaplan at MoveOn.org Political Action, in a statement to TPM. "Our whip count seeks to shine a spotlight on whether Democratic Senators will fight for poor, middle class and working families, or if they will cave to Republican demands to favor millionaires and billionaires instead."

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Bipartisan negotiations to reach a filibuster reform consensus continued Tuesday, with some senators striking a more hopeful tone over the prospects for an agreement. But details on what such a plan would look like were nowhere to be found. TPM spoke with many senators and none were willing to discuss the substance of the talks.

"We've had some very productive conversations," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the No. 2 Republican, who is retiring.

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Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval said Nevada will accept the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which many GOP governors have turned down.

He said in a statement via The Associated Press:

"Though I have never liked the Affordable Care Act because of the individual mandate it places on citizens, the increased burden on businesses and concerns about access to health care, the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court. As such, I am forced to accept it as today's reality and I have decided to expand Nevada's Medicaid coverage.

"My fiscal year 2014-2015 budget will provide 78,000 additional Nevadans with health insurance coverage through Medicaid, which is estimated to save the state general fund approximately $17 million dollars in mental health savings.  My executive budget will also help Nevada businesses cope with the burden placed on them by decreasing the modified business tax.  My decision to opt-in assists the neediest Nevadans and helps some avoid paying a health-care tax penalty.  As part of my proposal, I will also call upon the Legislature to pass Medicaid patient responsibility cost-sharing measures.

"I will commit to working with the Legislature if anything changes at the federal level. At any point during the Legislative session, if there is any sign of change at the state or federal level, it may alter my support for expansion."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Wednesday morning that she and other Democrats would "object" to raising the Medicare eligibility age in deficit reduction talks.

"Don't go there because it doesn't produce money," she said on "CBS This Morning." "Raising the retirement age does not get you that much money... so you're doing a bad thing when it comes to seniors and you're not achieving your goal" of lowering the deficit and improving the economy.

She said of potential reforms: "We're saying, 'does it work, is it fair or is it just a trophy for Republicans to take home?'"

"There's a recognition he may need our votes," Pelosi said of House Speaker John Boehner.

Speaking at Priceton University to promote his new book, Justice Antonin Scalia defended his previous controversial writings on gay rights, and explained to a gay student why he drew a legal analogy between laws banning sodomy to murder and bestiality.

"I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective," Scalia said Monday, in response to a student's question, according to The Associated Press.

"It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the ‘reduction to the absurd,'" he said. "If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?’"

When the student continued to press him, the justice reportedly quipped, "I'm surprised you aren’t persuaded."

Next spring, the Court will take up cases on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.

The U.S. Treasury department announced Tuesday morning that it will sell its final 234,169,156 shares of AIG common stock at $32.50 apiece in an underwritten public offering.

The overall positive return to Treasury and the Federal Reserve over the bailout of AIG, the announcement said, would become $22.7 billion.

Gov. John Kasich (R) has a job approval rating of 42-35 percentage points, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. It's his first positive job approval rating since his 2011 inauguration, the survey finds.

Even though his favorables are reasonably strong at 40-34, Ohio voters say Kasich does not deserve reelection by a similar margin of 43-36, per the poll.

Democrats are conferring with Republican senators about cutting a deal that would still change some of the Senate's filibuster rules but avoid a showdown that would force Democrats to advance significant reforms on a majority-rules basis.

The Republicans in these talks include Sens. John McCain (AZ), Jon Kyl (AZ), Lamar Alexander (TN) and Lindsey Graham (SC), according to Politico. To enhance their leverage, they're courting Democrats who are skittish about changing the rules of the Senate using the so-called "Constitutional" or "nuclear" option.

"I think this is yet another sign of the bipartisan concern with using the nuclear option to forever revoke the ability of the minority to participate in the legislative process," a Senate Republican leadership aide told TPM.

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The White House's top health official made clear on Monday that it would not fund a partial Medicaid expansion for states that choose not to embrace the new funding under the Affordable Care Act.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote a letter to governors saying the administration "continue[s] to encourage all states to fully expand their Medicaid programs."

In an accompanying blog post, she declared that "the law does not create an option for enhanced match for a partial or phased-in Medicaid expansion to 133 percent of poverty."

In other words, the states must take all or nothing. That sets up a dilemma for Republican governors, who have to decide whether to stonewall Obamacare or accept the generous funding to cover their low-income uninsured residents.

Rep. Tom Price's (R-GA) office shut down rumblings on Monday that he may challenge John Boehner for Speaker in the next Congress.

"Congressman Price is not running for speaker," a Price spokesman told TPM. "He is focused on real solutions to get America back on track. Those solutions reside in fundamental principles that embrace individual opportunity and economic freedom."

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