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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
On Saturday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) told a large home state crowd of activists and top political figures that he does not intend to adhere to the Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge.
"I think that you sent me to Washington to think for myself. And I want to vote the way you want me to vote," he said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I don’t want to be dictated to by anybody in Washington, as to how I'm going to vote on anything."
He noted that the Norquist pledge -- which he recently spoke out against, provoking a backlash from the anti-tax lobbyist -- forbids closing tax deductions and credits unless each dollar of new revenue is used to lower rates. By that logic, Chambliss said, rolling back the ethanol tax credit (a popular idea in the South) to help pay down the debt would violate the pledge. Norquist has repeatedly affirmed that interpretation of the pledge.
”When I said I care about my country more than I do about a 20-year-old pledge, that's what I'm talking about," the senator said. "Things have changed in 20 years. We didn’t owe $17 trillion 20 years ago. We're in a different world today."
In his Saturday weekly address, President Obama urged the public to push Republicans to pass middle income tax cuts and drop their demand to also extend lower rates for the wealthy. The GOP was prepared with a response, accusing him of a "classic bait and switch."
Speaking from a factory in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, Obama said:
It’s unacceptable for some Republicans in Congress to hold middle class tax cuts hostage simply because they refuse to let tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans. And if you agree with me, then I could use your help. Let your congressman know what $2,000 means to you. Give them a call. Write them an email. Or tweet them using the hashtag “My2K.” That’s My2K.
You and your family have a lot riding on the outcome of this debate. We all do. And as citizens, we all have a say in the country we want to build – not just on election day, but every day. So make your voice heard. I promise, it makes a difference. Thanks, and have a great weekend.
Senate Republicans, in response, accused him of pulling a "classic bait and switch" by proposing an opening bid with $1.6 trillion in new tax revenues after winning re-election.
The GOP's weekly address was delivered by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.
"The President has said he wants a so-called balanced approach to solve this crisis," he said. "But what he proposed this week was a classic bait and switch on the American people—a tax increase double the size of what he campaigned on, billions of dollars in new stimulus spending and an unlimited, unchecked authority to borrow from the Chinese. Maybe I missed it but I don’t recall him asking for any of that during the presidential campaign. These ideas are so radical that they have already been rejected on a bipartisan basis by Congress."
Before speaking about energy at the Western Governors Association, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) was asked about global warming by the local TV station KTVK.
"Everybody has an opinion on it, you know, and I, you know, I probably don’t believe that it’s man made," she said. "I believe that, you know, that weather elements are controlled maybe by different things."
Brewer didn't like the question. As she started walking away, she turned back toward the reporter to express her displeasure, apparently thinking the camera was off.
The Supreme Court is expected to soon dive into the battle over gay marriage.
The Court will meet on Friday to decide whether or not to consider the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act -- the 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same sex marriage. It will announce next week the cases it has decided to consider, and experts see few reasons why DOMA won't be among them.
Two federal appeals courts have invalidated Section 3 of DOMA, which bars federal benefits for same sex couples, as a violation of equal protection under the Constitution. In a rare move for the executive branch, the Obama administration is pushing the Supreme Court to overturn the federal law and angling against implementing parts of it.
"The Supreme Court simply has to take a DOMA case," said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA. "It's extremely rare for the Court to allow lower courts to strike down a federal law on such an important issue without weighing in."
Late Wednesday morning, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) reiterated his call for Republicans to accept President Obama's offer to extend middle income tax cuts in the near-term, and then fight against tax hikes in a broader package.
"In my view, we all agree that we're not going to raise taxes on people who make less than $250,000," he said on camera, as caught by MSNBC. "We should take them out of this discussion right now and continue to fight against any rate increase, continue to try to work honestly for a much bigger deal."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has tapped Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to help reach a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff," a senior GOP aide confirms to TPM. The elevated role puts the staunch conservative and recent vice presidential nominee in a tough predicament that carries important implications, both for his personal political future and, potentially, for relations between the White House and Congressional Republicans.
White House fiscal commission co-chair Erskine Bowles told TPM on Wednesday morning that Rep. Tom Cole's (R-OK) call for Republicans to accept President Obama's tax offer in the short term is "a step forward." He said he intends to tell House GOP leaders that later in the day.
"I think it's a step forward," Bowles told TPM before a Washington breakfast with reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor. "Republicans are going to have to talk about revenue, and Democrats are going to have to talk about real spending cuts, particularly in the entitlement programs."
"It'll be okay," he said, referring to extending 98 percent of the Bush-era tax rates for now. "But it has to be done in conjunction with reducing spending. And otherwise we don't solve the problem. So revenues is only one part of the equation. The other part of the equation is getting these entitlement programs under control."
Asked what he intends to tell House Republican leaders when the meet later in the day to discuss the fiscal cliff, he said, "Exactly what I just told you."
Seven naked protesters swarmed the office of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Tuesday for some 20 minutes of loud chanting against cuts to AIDS funding.
Among their chants: "Boehner, Boehner, don't be a dick, budget cuts will make us sick." And: "Fight AIDS. Act up. Fight back." And: "End AIDS with the Robin Hood tax, no more budget cuts on our back." And: "Budget cuts are really rude, that's why we have to be so lewd."
The screaming, fully-nude protesters stood still in the center of the office, together in a line but facing in different directions. The room quickly filled up with members of the activist groups they belong to, observers taking photographs, a handful of reporters, and, eventually, police.
After police showed up and repeatedly threatened to arrest the protesters for indecent exposure, they eventually put on their clothes and walked out of the Speaker's office. The three female protesters stuck around in the hallway to speak to reporters and were arrested anyway; the four male protesters appeared to get away, the organizers said.
The Supreme Court has reopened a challenge to key provisions of the Affordable Care Act -- one that was dismissed by a lower court last year on technical grounds, but could now become the staging ground for a new judicial fight over a piece of the law known as the employer mandate.
The challenge was brought by Liberty University, which charged that the law's individual and employer mandates violate the institution's religious freedom. The Virginia-based Christian college, founded by Jerry Falwell, argues that the law's requirement that large organizations provide employees insurance could lead to the forced funding of abortion, which it says violates the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
House Republican leaders will meet on Wednesday with Erskine Bowles, the former Clinton White House chief of staff who co-chaired President Obama's fiscal commission, according to Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office.
The Bowles-Simpson commission devised long-term debt reduction policies worth trillions of dollars in spending cuts and new tax revenues.
“People in both parties agree we need a ‘balanced approach’ to deal with our deficit and debt and help our economy create jobs," Boehner said in a statement. "As we’ve seen in recent days, the American people support an approach that involves both major spending cuts and additional revenue via tax reform with lower tax rates. We look forward to talking to Mr. Bowles and other members of the coalition about their ideas to avert the ‘fiscal cliff’ without tax hikes that target small businesses and cost jobs."