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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

In an awkward move Wednesday, Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly for two GOP-written budgets that would each let student loan interest rates spike in July, even as they insist they want to avert such an outcome.

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House Speaker John Boehner's demand Tuesday that the next increase in the debt limit be accompanied by dollar-for-dollar "cuts and reforms" apparently comes with a caveat: It doesn't apply to the GOP budget drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Ryan's House-passed blueprint would increase the nation's debt by $5 trillion over a decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The plan has the strong support of congressional Republicans and conservatives.

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During a meeting with the White House and congressional leaders Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) affirmed that he wants to reach a deal to prevent a student loan interest rate hike, according to his office.

"We all agreed that rates shouldn't go up this year and that we need to resolve the differences and pass legislation together," McConnell said.

Democrats and Republicans are currently grappling over how to pay for such a measure.

The readout from McConnell's office:

In a cordial lunch meeting, Sen. McConnell pressed the President and the Democrat leadership on the need to produce a bill to prevent the student loan interest rate increase that can actually pass the Senate.

Sen. McConnell noted in the meeting that the Senate passed bipartisan legislation over the past year when poison pills were removed and Republicans were included in the debate (some examples: JOBS Act, Veterans jobs, trade agreements, FAA reauthorization, highway bill, payroll tax holiday, patent reform). And he believes that there is time before the election for even more bipartisan accomplishments.

The White House and Democrats are upping their rhetoric against the GOP after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) demanded dollar-for-dollar budget savings before raising the debt ceiling again.

In Wednesday's briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama won't accept any ultimatums on raising the debt ceiling that would "recreate the self-inflicted political wounds that nearly collapsed the economy last summer."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD), the Dems' top budget man, echoed the charge Wednesday.

"Republicans have rejected the balanced approach that every bipartisan group has proposed, and now the Speaker of the House is out there again creating a self-inflicted wound on the economy," he told Bloomberg TV. "This is a manufactured crisis, just like it was last August, but it is not harmless."

 

With a vote in the House scheduled Wednesday on the Violence Against Women Act, House Republicans are taking steps to ease the political blowback they have been getting on the issue, but Democrats and advocacy groups fret that the new proposals from the House GOP would still be a step backward.

The weeks-long skirmish over the VAWA, which has already passed the Senate, is a high-stakes battle for women voters in an election, as Democrats seek to hold their sizable polling advantage with women and Republicans try to blunt that edge.

Late Tuesday, the White House threatened to veto the House GOP's version, warning that it would "undermine the core principles" of the act.

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During a meeting Wednesday, President Obama told House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) that he wants to raise the debt ceiling when it comes up without any strings attached, Boehner's office said, adding that the Speaker told him that won't happen.

The full readout from Boehner's office:

The Speaker participated in a friendly lunch meeting today with the President and other congressional leaders. The President began the meeting by laying out some of his policy goals, including his “to-do list” for Congress. The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing other issues, including the next debt limit increase and the looming expiration of current tax rates. In a discussion of the debt limit, the Speaker – who has warned that the growing debt is hurting U.S. job creation – asked the President if he is proposing that Congress pass an increase that does not include any spending cuts to help reduce the deficit. The President said, “yes.” The Speaker told the President, “as long as I’m around here, I’m not going to allow a debt ceiling increase without doing something serious about the debt.” The Speaker also asked the President for his plans to deal with the largest tax increase in American history, which will mean tax hikes on small businesses, and the devastating cuts poised to hit our military, both scheduled to take effect at the end of the year. The Speaker pressed the President to approve the job-creating Keystone pipeline energy project.  The Speaker also asked the President to encourage the Attorney General to provide the information Congressional investigators have sought about the Fast and Furious operation.  The Speaker was very pleased with the sandwiches served.

Senate Republicans quickly united behind House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Tuesday after he telegraphed his intention to use the debt limit as leverage to avoid a scheduled tax increase. Democrats balked at his demand that raising the debt ceiling -- which is set to max out this December -- be paired dollar-for-dollar with spending "cuts and reforms." The widening rift foreshadows another self-inflicted battle, the likes of which nearly collapsed the U.S. economy last fall.

"A request of the President to ask us to raise the debt ceiling ought to generate a significant response to deal with the problem of deficit and debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told a handful of reporters Tuesday afternoon in the Capitol.

In a Tuesday speech, Boehner said, "I will again insist on my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase" -- something his conference did last summer. Further hinting at chaos, he scoffed at the idea of raising taxes, even as Democrats insist they won't agree to another major debt-reduction deal that excludes new revenues.

McConnell wasn't the only Republican senator who backed up Boehner's stance.

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The White House on Tuesday issued a veto threat to the House Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act.

"The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 4970, a bill that would undermine the core principles of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)," reads a statement from the Office of Management and Budget. OMB griped about provisions that, unlike the Senate-passed version, exclude protections for Native Americans and LGBT domestic violence and undocumented immigrants.

More from the OMB statement:

H.R. 4970 also takes direct aim at immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault by removing critical protections currently in law.  H.R. 4970 allows abusers to be notified when a victim files a VAWA self-petition for relief, and it eliminates the path to citizenship for U visa holders – victims of serious crimes such as torture, rape, and domestic violence – who are cooperating with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of these crimes.  These proposals senselessly remove existing legal protections, undermine VAWA's core purpose of protecting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, frustrate important law enforcement objectives, and jeopardize victims by placing them directly in harm's way.

The Administration urges the House to find common ground with the bipartisan Senate-passed bill and consider and pass legislation that will protect all victims.  H.R. 4970 rolls back existing law and removes long-standing protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault – crimes that predominately affect women.  If the President is presented with H.R. 4970, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

Retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said Tuesday that she supports Mitt Romney for president.

"I haven't said anything formally but I am going to support Mitt Romney," she told TPM in the Capitol.

In a statement to TPM, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of the Democratic leadership, reacted to House Speaker John Boehner's demand that the next debt limit increase be paired with dollar-for-dollar "cuts and reforms."

“Republicans have spent the last year running away from the deal we made to avoid the last artificial crisis they created, so I don't know why the Speaker is already laying the groundwork for another one," Murray told TPM. "Apparently one Tea Party credit downgrade isn’t enough for House Republicans."

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