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

After an outcry from Democrats, Michigan's Republican House speaker and governor on Thursday ruled out legislation introduced by Republicans requiring women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound prior to having an abortion.

"While I want to be sure women have access to the best technology available, I have absolutely no interest in forcing a woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound," House Speaker Jase Bolger said in a statement. "This House of Representatives will not pass a bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds."

Gov. Rick Snyder's office denounced the bill after the Speaker nixed it.

"Gov. Snyder is not at all supportive of this legislation and has zero interest in seeing it come to his desk," his spokeswoman Sara Wurfel told TPM.

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Michigan's House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) on Thursday categorically ruled out legislation introduced by his Republican colleagues to mandate transvaginal ultrasounds for women before having an abortion.

"While I want to be sure women have access to the best technology available, I have absolutely no interest in forcing a woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound," Bolger said in a statement. "This House of Representatives will not pass a bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds."

Gov. Rick Snyder's (R) office has declined to return multiple requests for comments.

Bolger added: "We must increase the value of life in Michigan because all life is valuable and no life is disposable. No matter a person's beliefs regarding abortions, I hope we in Michigan can come together on goals we can all agree on. Specifically, I hope we can improve pre-natal care. I hope we can increase support for women who may need it if they become unexpectedly pregnant. I hope we can improve and increase adoptions in Michigan. I hope that a woman who becomes unexpectedly pregnant and cannot keep her baby knows she will receive all the support she needs to have that baby and that a Michigan family will be able to quickly adopt, love and raise the child."


House Republicans "are not going to be able to vote for" a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a key GOP voice in the debate said Thursday.

"The people that came here illegally knowingly -- I don't think they should have a path to citizenship," Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), a tea party star and former immigration lawyer, said on NPR. "If you knowingly violated our law, you violated our sovereignty, I think we should normalize your status but we should not give you a pathway to citizenship."

Under Labrador's proposal, which reflects an alternate route sought by House Republicans, undocumented immigrants would receive a visa that allows them to live, work and travel in and out of the United States, but without the right to vote or become a green card holder or citizen.

"Some people are calling it a blue card or a red card," said the conservative Latino congressman. "I think we should treat them with dignity, but we should also be fair to millions of people that are waiting in line, that are trying to do it the right way. ... We have a large majority of the House of Representatives that wants to do something right now."

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Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) has fired his spokesman Phil Hardy for a mistaken tweet on the congressman's account, according to the Idaho Statesman.

The tweet read "Me likey Broke Girls" and was immediately deleted, but remains viewable through an archive of lawmakers' deleted tweets. His office apologized.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) called on House Republicans to drop their objections to the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act and take it up after the upper chamber passes it, which she said will happen by Friday morning.

"I really hope that House Republicans listen now to women and men across the country who say that women, no matter who they are, should be protected from violence," Murray told TPM in an interview.

Now that the Senate legislation has eliminated a procedural hurdle to House passage, she said, "There is no reason for them not to take this bill up and pass it."

House Republican leaders support reauthorizing VAWA but have resisted additional provisions that extend coverage to gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans who suffer from domestic abuse.

"I think they are hearing from a number of their moderate Republican women, particularly after the last election," Murray said. "I think they are looking bad hiding behind not moving a strong bill."

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) told TPM on Thursday that final passage of the Violence Against Women Act is on deck for late afternoon or Friday morning at the latest.

"I feel very confident that we will come out of today with a very strong bipartisan support for a very strong bill just as we have in the past," she said.

The Senate voted 85-8 earlier this week to move forward with the bill.

"Rick Snyder should come out publicly and denounce this extreme, Tea Party bill, which would invade women’s privacy and endanger their health with an unnecessary medical procedure,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said in a statement. "It’s time for Michigan Republicans to stop intruding on a woman’s relationship with her doctor and start focusing on jobs and the economy. Snyder says he wants to move forward from the divisiveness of the lame duck session. He can make progress toward that goal by stating for the record that he will veto this legislation if Lansing Republicans put it ‘on the agenda’ and send it to his desk."

TPM reached out to the governor's office again Thursday but did not immediately get a response.

Michigan Republicans have introduced a bill requiring all women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before obtaining an abortion, a move that rekindles last year's firestorm when other GOP-led states were considering similar measures.

The legislation introduced Tuesday in the state House ensures the "performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus at least two hours before an abortion is performed" and requires her to sign a consent form prior to the abortion. The bill was introduced by state Rep. Joel Johnson (R) and cosponsored by 22 fellow lawmakers.

Johnson was not available for comment Wednesday, but his legislative aide, Ben Frederick, confirmed to TPM that, while the legislation does not specifically mention transvaginal ultrasounds, the bill aims to require women to undergo an ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion.

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Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on Wednesday called on Senate Republicans not to filibuster President Obama's nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which 43 GOP senators have pledged to do unless Democrats agree to weaken the board's authority.

He said in a statement:

“The GOP effort to undermine the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is an attack on America’s families. Predatory mortgages and other tricks and traps of the financial system have devastated too many working families. The CFPB was created, with the support of a supermajority of senators, to take on these egregious abuses and ensure that all Americans are protected from unfair and deceptive practices.

“The senators blocking Cordray must ask themselves a fundamental question. Does financial fairness for working families matter? I think it does.  Financial fairness is essential for successful families. Financial fairness is a family value.

“Richard Cordray is, by Republicans’ own admission, extremely well qualified. He has run the agency superbly.  He should be confirmed without delay.”

Merkley -- who led the charge for reforming the filibuster, which ended with a whimper last month -- accompanied his statement with a tweet.

There's no way in the world House Republicans would agree to raise any new revenue in order to avoid the upcoming automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, a senior GOP lawmaker said Tuesday afternoon.

"I'm all against raising any additional revenue on this. Look, these are written into law," Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip, told TPM between votes. Cole said there are other, preferable ways to make the sequester cuts that he is open to, but new revenue will not be part of the equation.

"We just had additional revenue for the federal government, so I don't see any way in the world the sequester won't happen either as written or renegotiated or reallocated cuts. But I don't see any revenue coming in the picture."

His comments, which echo the hardline position articulated by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently, came shortly after President Obama's televised remarks Tuesday afternoon calling on Congress to "delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months" if it cannot agree to a comprehensive solution by the March 1 deadline.

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