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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

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) stonewalled President Obama's call Wednesday to extend the middle income tax rates set to expire in January, and hinted that the two will remain at a dead stop at least until they meet Friday.

"Well, I think instead of the House moving on the Senate bill, the Senate ought to move on the House bill," he told reporters during a late afternoon briefing in the Capitol.

A reporter pressed him on why he won't, as Obama suggested, vote to extend the middle income tax cuts both sides agree on the need to extend.

"We are not going to hurt our economy and make job creation more difficult, which is exactly what that plan will do," he said. "It's not the direction we want to go because it's going to hurt job creators in America."

Boehner dodged again when asked about Obama's clear refusal to extend the lower tax rates for the top bracket.

"I look forward to my conversation beginning with the president on Friday," he said.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) will ascend two ranks on the Republican leadership ladder despite running his party's Senate campaign arm ahead of its unexpected losses last week.

The Texan, who chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee in both the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, was elected Wednesday by colleagues to replace outgoing Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ) as GOP Whip -- the No. 2 role behind Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY), who will remain Minority Leader.

"It's an honor to be elected by my colleagues to serve as the whip, the assistant leader on the Republican side," Cornyn told reporters in the Capitol. "I appreciate the confidence they've placed in me."

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Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA) defeated Rep. Tom Price (GA) to become the next chairman of the House Republican Conference, according to a person in the room during the vote Wednesday afternoon.

It's the No. 4 position in the House Republican conference.

The source did not have a final vote count at time of publication.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told TPM on Wednesday he had an inkling that Mitt Romney's internal polls were overly optimistic about his chances of victory.

"I had a sense that it was much more difficult than the pollsters were saying," he said in the Capitol.

In the wake of Romney's defeat, campaign operatives have told reporters that their internal polling -- contrary to public polls -- gave the Republican a good chance of victory.

"Look, everybody knows their polls were wrong," McCain said. "I mean, they admit that."

Asked if he believes the campaign was shocked about losing, he said, "You'll have to ask them."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the newly elected Minority Whip, invoked the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission Wednesday as a "roadmap" for upcoming deficit-reduction negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff.

"We know what [our problems are] in the lame duck and we know what those are going forward -- there's no mystery about that," he told reporters in the Capitol. "Nor is there really any mystery to some of the solutions, based on the president's own bipartisan fiscal commission and others, that have sort of laid out the roadmap, and have shown us the way to address those issues."

Republicans have praised the plan's cuts to domestic and safety net spending, but have joined conservative activists in rejecting its multi-trillion dollar tax increases.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has been elected Republican Whip, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Wednesday to reporters in the Capitol.

"I'm honored to have been chosen by my colleagues to help lead our caucus during such a critical time for this country," he said. "Core Texas values like hard work, limited government, and individual liberty will continue to guide me in this new role. I look forward to working with the Conference to tackle the major hurdles before us, beginning with the looming fiscal cliff."

Cornyn cited as his "role model" outgoing Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who did not seek re-election.

Cornyn chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee this cycle -- a position that will next be taken up by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS).

Sen. John Thune will remain Republican Conference Chairman.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will stay on as Democratic leaders next Congress, two sources close to her confirm to TPM.

She informed her caucus of the decision early Wednesday, and will announce it to the press later this morning.

"Ten years ago today, Nancy Pelosi was elected as the first woman to lead a political party in Congress," one source said. "She will continue to lead a united Democratic Caucus that will play a crucial role in developing a responsible deficit reduction package – working with President Obama and our colleagues in the Senate – that protects Social Security and Medicare, the middle class and children, while asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share."

The second source said, "Newly elected members [are] behind her. Talked about the diversity of the class. Elected to be problem solvers."

 

A battle over a key leadership position has split senior House Republicans.

Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA) and Tom Price (GA) will go head-to-head Wednesday afternoon as the members hold a closed-door vote to elect the next House Republican Conference Chairman, the party's No. 4 leadership role.

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Outgoing Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) told reporters Tuesday that he has no existing plans to seek office again but did not rule out a future run.

"I'm not even concerned about that right now," he said during a press briefing in the Capitol, adding that the country faces huge challenges.

In response to a question, he said Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), a rumored candidate for Secretary of State, would be an "excellent" choice for the job. If Kerry vacates his seat, Brown would have the option of making another run for senator.

"We'll see what happens," Brown said.

"Aside from my marriage to my wife and the birth of my kids, serving in the Senate has been the greatest honor of my life," he said. "[There isn't] an opening for senator. But there is an opening for a dad and a husband."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) offered his take on the fiscal cliff in a floor speech Tuesday, calling on the House to take up the Senate-passed bill to avert tax hikes on middle incomes.

An excerpt from Reid's speech:

"In fact, we could avert the fiscal cliff for 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses today. The House must only consider the Senate-passed bill freezing tax rates for those making less than $250,000 a year.

"This Congress is but one vote away from avoiding the fiscal cliff for middle class families and small businesses.

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