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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

The socially conservative Family Research Council denounced the Senate-passed fiscal cliff agreement for its lack of "spending cuts or entitlement reform" -- and said it effectively penalizes married couples by leaving joint tax filers with less than twice the standard deduction for individuals.

FRC's statement Tuesday:

"To make matters worse, President Obama's fiscal cliff deal would impose a marriage penalty on many American families. For real, long term solutions to our nation's fiscal problems, the government should not be working to further dissuade couples from getting married.

"Research out of Family Research Council's Marriage and Religion Research Institute routinely shows that married couples with children create the most capital and generate the most income on average. This economic activity leads to higher revenue for government and more capital for economic expansion. Why then would we penalize marriage? We should be encouraging family formation, not penalizing it.

Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, arch-conservative Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) lashed out at the Senate-passed deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

"We're taking up a bill that will not do anything to cut spending," he said. "I'm embarrassed for this generation. The future generations deserve better."

President Obama appeared on NBC's "Meet The Press" Sunday to ratchet up the pressure on Congress to act to avoid the fiscal cliff -- and repeatedly blamed Republicans for the impending crisis in the event of failure.

"So far, at least, Congress has not been able to get this stuff done," Obama said. "Not because Democrats in Congress don't want to go ahead and cooperate, but because I think it's been very hard for Speaker Boehner and Republican Leader McConnell to accept the fact that taxes on the wealthiest Americans should go up a little bit as part of an overall deficit reduction package."

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In a rare Sunday appearance on NBC's "Meet The Press," President Obama offered some additional thoughts on the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.

"That was the worst day of my presidency, and it's not something I want to see repeated," Obama said, saying the tragedy hit close to home.

The president said new gun control laws won't happen if the public doesn't speak up and demand them. He was wary of the push to deal with the problem of school shootings by arming teachers and faculty.

(Photo: President Barack Obama wipes away a tear while speaking about the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Credit: AP)

This was a bad year for the Republican Party. What started out as a year of hope that they would return to power ended in a series of profound disappointments that left party strategists debating whether the GOP would become a permanent minority unless they change course.

Here are the party's five most disappointing moments.

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With the fiscal cliff rapidly approaching, President Obama was unflinching in his tax stance on Friday, threatening to use his leverage to force Republicans into an unenviable position if they fail to agree to a deal in time.

After a White House meeting with congressional leaders, Obama held a news conference to issue a tough ultimatum to Congress: reach a deal now or block my middle class tax cut in the new year.

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The two leading champions of weakening the Senate filibuster on Friday criticized a bipartisan proposal that was unveiled in the afternoon with scaled-back reforms, and they pushed for their own package to make more sweeping changes to the rules.

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Udall (D-NM) promptly said the alternate proposal put forth by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) is too weak and does nothing to prevent senators from filibustering quietly and escaping public accountability for their obstruction -- the centerpiece of the Merkley-Udall "talking filibuster" plan.

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At the White House meeting Friday, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told President Obama and congressional leaders that the House won't move on the fiscal cliff until the Senate first acts on one of its bills, either by passing it in full or amending it.

The readout from his office:

"At the top of the meeting, the Speaker reminded the group that the House has already acted to avert the entire fiscal cliff and is awaiting Senate action.  The leaders spent the majority of the meeting discussing potential options and components for a plan that could pass both chambers of Congress. The Speaker told the President that if the Senate amends the House-passed legislation and sends back a plan, the House will consider it - either by accepting or amending. The group agreed that the next step should be the Senate taking bipartisan action."

After the White House meeting on the fiscal cliff, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters that the two leaders of the Senate will try to find a solution that can pass Congress.

She called the meeting "constructive" and "candid" and said Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made clear he will not move before the Senate acts first.

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) on Friday unveiled a bipartisan proposal to change filibuster rules, a scaled back plan to prevent Democrats from using the so-called constitutional option to weaken the minority's power.

The proposal (PDF) would permit the majority leader to bypass motions to begin debate on legislation and in return guarantee the minority party two amendments. It would also increase the number of judicial nominations that can be expedited.

The plan is the product of bipartisan negotiations between a number of senators to achieve a resolution that satisfies Democrats' concerns with the minority's abuse of the filibuster but avoid the use what Republicans dub the "nuclear option" to change the rules with 51 votes early next Congress.

Meanwhile, Democratic champions of robust filibuster reform say they have the requisite 51 votes.

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