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

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) threatened in his most explicit terms yet to use the so-called nuclear option to weaken the filibuster if Republicans keep blocking judicial and other nominees from coming to a vote.

"All within the sound of my voice -- including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with -- should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority," Reid told Nevada Public Radio in a little-noticed interview Friday. "And I will do that if necessary."

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The number of GOP senators pledging to filibuster any gun control bill has grown to 13.

The original supporters of a filibuster, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), have now swelled their ranks, according to Politico.

In addition to Paul, Lee, Cruz, Rubio and Moran, the Republican [sic] who have signed the second letter are Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo of Idaho, Dan Coats of Indiana and Pat Roberts of Kansas.

While the outcome of negotiations with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) remains uncertain, Democrats have reached out to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) for a possible deal on expanded background checks in gun control legislation, according to Politico and the Washington Post.

The move reflects the latest effort to find GOP support for the cause, which is extremely popular among the public but has been bogged down in Congress due to opposition from the National Rifle Association and gun industry.

A federal judge ruled Friday that the Obama administration may not prohibit sale of the morning-after pill over the counter for minors, criticizing the administration's late 2011 decision as politically driven and in spite of scientific evidence.

In a 59-page decision, District Court Judge Edward R. Korman decried the Department of Health and Human Services' late 2011 decision to refuse to remove age limits on the sale of the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step as "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable."

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Liberals are mounting strong criticisms of President Obama amid news that his budget will include a Social Security benefit cut -- an official endorsement of a policy compromise he's offered Republicans for years -- and warning Democrats not to dare vote to cut the cherished retirement program.

A trio of progressive advocacy groups issued scathing statements Friday in response to reports that Obama's proposal will include a policy called "Chained CPI," which would re-index Social Security cost of living increases to a lower rate of inflation -- a benefit cut the president has included in deficit offers to Republicans since 2011.

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) responded Friday to reports that President Obama's upcoming budget proposal will include cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which the president has floated in prior discussions.

"If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs," Boehner said, "there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes."

The Speaker's full statement:

“The president and I were not able to reach an agreement late last year because his offers never lived up to his rhetoric. Despite talk about so-called balance, the president’s last offer was significantly skewed in favor of higher taxes and included only modest entitlement savings. He said he could go no further toward the middle, and that’s why his last offer was rejected.  In the end, the president got his tax hikes on the wealthy with no corresponding spending cuts. At some point we need to solve our spending problem, and what the president has offered would leave us with a budget that never balances.  In reality, he’s moved in the wrong direction, routinely taking off the table entitlement reforms he’s previously told me he could support.

“When the president visited the Capitol last month, House Republicans stated a desire to find common ground and urged him not to make savings we agree upon conditional on another round of tax increases. If reports are accurate, the president has not heeded that call. If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes. That’s no way to lead and move the country forward."

Senate Democrats are warning Republicans not to filibuster President Obama's nominee to be a judge on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. If they don't filibuster Sri Srinivasan, currently the No. 2 lawyer in the U.S. Solicitor General's office, it would be the first Obama nominee to receive a confirmation vote to serve on the nation's second highest court.

"Srinivasan is an ideal nominee: extremely qualified, and supported by a broad range of experts and colleagues from across the ideological spectrum," said a Senate Democratic leadership aide. "If Republicans block him from even receiving a vote, it will be crystal clear to everyone that there are no nominees they would find acceptable, and that they are dead set on pursuing obstruction as an end unto itself."

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Twenty-eight former Supreme Court clerks for justices ranging from Antonin Scalia to Ruth Bader Ginsburg sent a letter to Capitol Hill on Thursday vouching for Sri Srinivasan, whom President Obama has nominated to be a judge on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We have no doubt that, should he be confirmed, Sri would epitomize the highest ideals of judicial demeanor and colleagiality, and we support his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit without reservation," the former clerks wrote.

Read the letter below -- addressed to Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) -- and the list of signatories below.

Srinivasan Letter - Supreme Court Clerks 4-4-2013

Conservative senators, including two Democrats, are ratcheting up fears about a treaty the United Nations approved Tuesday to regulate global arm sales to tyrannical regimes. The lawmakers are echoing dubious claims by the National Rifle Association that it would impede gun rights in the United States.

The treaty, which received U.S. support and passed 154-3, would have no effect on domestic gun sales or laws. While it lacks a clear enforcement mechanism, its aim is to crack down on the sale of weapons to countries with poor human rights records -- which is why only Iran, North Korea and Syria voted against it.

But the politically charged mix of guns and U.N. action is fertile soil for NRA-fueled paranoia, and pro-gun senators -- either concerned about a gun-lobby backlash or supportive of NRA's broader efforts -- are racing to stoke it.

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Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) says she has received multiple death threats over legislation she is working on to make sure gun owners have insurance.

"Yesterday, several death threats were phoned into my New York office in response to news reports about a bill I authored requiring gun owners to have insurance," the congresswoman said in a statement Wednesday morning. "The calls were fielded by young interns, who were understandably shaken by this experience."

Maloney told the New York Daily News that the threats came in three menacing phone calls, which left her so disturbed she ended up missing a planned awards dinner Tuesday night.

"They said they were going to kill me," she told the paper.

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