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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

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) still wants filibuster reform. But he's voicing support for a set of changes to the current filibuster rules that would fall short of the more sweeping proposal from leading reformers, and the leading Senate champion of filibuster reform believes Reid's proposed changes are not strong enough.

In a locally aired interview over the weekend on a PBS affiliate in Las Vegas, Reid said he wants to require an obstructing minority of senators to occupy the floor and speak only after cloture has been invoked to begin debate. In other words, 41 senators could silently block debate from beginning, but once 60 senators vote to move to debate, filibustering senators must speak on the floor.

He also said he wants to reduce the current 30-hour delay between cloture and a final vote and shrink the number of votes required to go to conference with the House from a total of three down to one.

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One week before filibuster reform's do-or-die moment, its two chief proponents are escalating their campaign, enlisting Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and the liberal Daily Kos community to help lead the charge.

The Senate returns early next week with a narrow window to either approve or scrap the resolution by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Udall (D-NM) to require an obstructing minority to occupy the floor and speak for the duration of their filibuster.

Three senators and Daily Kos are issuing a new petition Monday that reads: "Just a few days left! Over the next few days, the fate of filibuster reform hangs in the balance. Let's tell the leaders of the U.S. Senate that real reform includes a full talking filibuster."

Meanwhile, the Fix The Senate Now coalition of outside anti-filibuster groups is sounding the alarm with its own drive for reform. The coalition, which is urging supporters to write to their senators in favor of reform, argues that Republican threats to hinder the nominations of Chuck Hagel for the Pentagon and Jack Lew for Treasury enhance the need to curtail the filibuster.

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The White House's weekend ultimatum that Congress either lift the debt ceiling cleanly or take responsibility for default puts Republicans in a bind over their goal of reforming entitlement programs.

In ruling out all executive options, such as minting a high-value platinum coin, the White House put the onus on congressional Republicans to agree to raise the nation's borrowing limit -- without spending cuts or strings attached -- or permit the first ever credit default. President Obama has steadfastly rebuffed their calls to cut social spending in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, and Democratic leaders support his position.

"There are only two options to deal with the debt limit: Congress can pay its bills or it can fail to act and put the nation into default," said Obama's spokesman Jay Carney. "The President and the American people won't tolerate Congressional Republicans holding the American economy hostage again simply so they can force disastrous cuts to Medicare and other programs the middle class depend on while protecting the wealthy."

That leaves Republicans in a difficult position vis-à-vis their promise not to raise the debt ceiling without improving the long-run solvency of programs like Social Security and Medicare.

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In a web exclusive with ABC News Sunday, Paul Krugman went after Jon Stewart over the comedian's derisive coverage of the idea of minting a platinum coin to avoid a credit default.

“It is a funny thing. But you want to be funny from a point of view of understanding what the issues are. There’s a reason we’ve gotten to this place," said the economist and New York Times columnist. "Obviously neither [Stewart] nor his staff did even five minutes of looking at the financial blogs. Lots of people think it’s a bad idea. Lots of people think it’s a good idea. But it’s not just, ‘Oh, those idiots.’"

In a recent blog post, Krugman, an advocate for the platinum coin idea that the White House ruled out Saturday, called the Comedy Central host "lazy" for what he characterized as an overly simplistic mockery of the idea.

“Part of the point about Stewart ... is that he’s funny, but that the show is actually better informed than most of our public discussion," he told ABC. "The idea is that the show is like an especially good episode of the roundtable on ‘This Week’, but in the form of jokes. But when he just turns it into dumb, 'I don’t know nothing, but those people look dumb to me,' he’s ruining his brand."

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press" that the GOP cannot merely represent the "far right wing of the political spectrum" if it wants to remain a viable party into the future.

"I think the Republican Party right now is having an identity problem," he said. "And I'm still a Republican."

"In recent years there's been a significant shift to the right, and we have seen what that shift has produced: two losing presidential campaigns," Powell said. "I think what the Republican Party needs to do now is take a very hard look at itself and understand that the country has changed. The country is changing demographically. And if the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they're going to be in trouble."

"There's also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party," he said. "They still sort of look down on minorities." He pointed to Republican figures issuing racially-tinged slurs at President Obama and the GOP's tolerance of the birther movement.

The former secretary of state said the GOP needs to come up with constructive solutions to problems like health care and climate change.

"I'm a moderate, but I'm still a Republican," Powell said. "And until I voted for Obama twice I voted for seven straight Republican presidents."

Colin Powell said Sunday that Chuck Hagel would be confirmed secretary of defense, offering a ringing endorsement of the decorated war hero and former Republican senator from Nebraska.

The former secretary of state said on NBC's "Meet The Press" that Hagel is "superbly qualified" and "will make a very spirited defense of his positions" when he appears before the Senate.

Powell praised Hagel's "very, very distinguished public service record." He said Hagel "speaks his mind" and "says what he believes and sticks with it" even if it gets him in trouble.

He said the issues raised about Hagel are "important" but that the ex-senator will have an opportunity to address them at his confirmation hearings, and will "do a great job as secretary of defense."

Powell said Hagel is "a good supporter of Israel" but he's "not reluctant to disagree when he thinks disagreement is appropriate." He said being pro-Israel "doesn't mean you have to agree with every single position that the Israeli government takes."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the Sandy Hook shooting caused a "sea change" in the debate over gun control.

"Newtown fundamentally changed things, and the NRA just doesn't get this," he said.

Murphy said lawmakers who would previously never consider gun control are open to it now, naming Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) as an example.

"I would say that the likelihood is that they're not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress," he said on CNN's "State of the Union." He said he also doesn't believe a ban on certain clips could pass either.

Keene's group accused the White House of seeking to undermine the Second Amendment after a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden last week.

On Sunday Keene reiterated: "We're not going to compromise on peoples' rights when there is no evidence that doing so is going to serve a purpose."

He voiced his support for a database of mentally ill people in order to prevent them from buying a gun.

Keene said that it's President Obama and gun control advocate Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) -- not the NRA -- who are "scaring" Americans.

Obamacare has put Republican governors in a pickle.

Ambitious GOP governors in blue and swing states -- including Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Rick Scott of Florida -- have yet to decide whether to accept the law's Medicaid expansion. And they're in a tight squeeze between conservatives demanding they turn it down, on one hand, and the enticing offer of a large sum of federal money on the other.

Republican governors broadly criticized the Medicaid expansion after the Supreme Court made it optional last summer. Christie praised that part of the Court's decision, calling it "extortion" to force states to broaden Medicaid. Scott initially said he'd opt out before later hedging. Walker, Kasich and Snyder expressed concerns but deferred until the election.

Now the election is over, and the Affordable Care Act isn't going anywhere, forcing them to make a tough decision.

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