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 Democrats issued a report Thursday seeking to highlight dubious arithmetic in the budget proposal unveiled this week by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

The memo -- cheekily titled "Paul Ryan's Hocus Pocus Budget" with a photo of a magician on the cover -- shines a light on five problematic elements of Ryan's plan. It offers a glimpse into how Senate Democrats will seek to discredit Ryan's proposal as they advance their first budget resolution in four years, which does not purport to balance the federal budget but seeks to lower and stabilize the deficit in the long term.

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President Obama is seeking to push Republicans to work with him on a grand deficit bargain by first assuring them he's willing to cut entitlements, and then attempting to scrape off enough of them who will in turn agree to raise new revenues.

House Republicans emerged from a rare meeting with Obama on Wednesday afternoon saying he assured them he was serious about cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare in order to reduce the long-term deficit.

"It was a really great first step," said Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI). "He did express a willingness to give on entitlements."

"He focused a lot on entitlements," said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL).

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday aggressively criticized the Medicare cuts under Obamacare -- cuts which are also included in the House GOP budget that was unveiled Tuesday. In echoing the familiar Republican attack line on the President, Cruz did not reference the budget proposal from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that adopts the same cuts.

"Obamacare took $716 billion from Medicare, a large portion of which came from the Medicare Advantage program which serves a great many seniors, and especially poor seniors," Cruz said on the Senate floor. "According to the Office of the Actuary at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Medicare advantage cuts in Obamacare will reduce enrollment from 14.8 million to 7.4 million by 2017. It will cut it in half. Seven million people will lose their coverage under Medicare Advantage." (The actuary also found that those who lose coverage under Medicare Advantage, an optional program under which seniors can receive coverage through a private insurer, would remain covered under traditional Medicare.)

"I would remind you the president said if you like your health insurance, you can keep it," Cruz said. "Yet seven million seniors are losing Medicare Advantage."

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told Sean Hannity Wednesday on his radio show that House Republicans intend to continue targeting Obamacare.

He explained that House Republicans did not go after the law in their must-pass legislation to keep the government open because that "would risk shutting down the government. That is not our goal. Our goal is to cut spending."

"Do you want to risk the full faith and credit of the United States over defunding Obamacare?" Boehner said. "That's a very tough argument to make."

Boehner's remarks shoot down calls by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other conservatives to threaten a government shutdown if Democrats insist on funding Obamacare in its entirety.

Senate Republicans tried and failed Wednesday to attach an amendment to stopgap government funding legislation that would have defunded the Affordable Care Act -- the 34th GOP attempt to dismantle the legislation.

The Senate moved forward Wednesday morning with stopgap legislation to fund the government past March 27 -- similar to that passed by the House.

The chamber proceeded to open debate on the bill after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) dropped his objection. Two amendments are set to be voted on, one of which strips funding for implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who crafted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as part of the 2010 financial reform law and initially helped lead it, excoriated Republicans on Tuesday for refusing to confirm a nominee to lead the agency.

"From the way I see how other agencies are treated, I see nothing here but a filibuster threat against Director Cordray as an attempt to weaken the consumer agency," she said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the CFPB nomination. "I think the delay in getting him confirmed is bad for consumers, it's bad for small banks, it's bad for credit unions, it's bad for anyone trying to offer an honest product in an honest market.

"The American people," Warren said, "deserve a Congress that worries less about helping big banks and more about helping regular people who have been cheated on mortgages, on credit cards, on student loans, on credit records."

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New legislation to keep the government funded past March 27 hit a snag Tuesday afternoon when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) placed a hold on beginning debate, essentially threatening to filibuster the bill. It appears unlikely to sink the bipartisan legislation, though.

"He wants to read the bill," Coburn spokesman John Hart told TPM.

On the Senate floor, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) backed up Coburn's call to withhold support for beginning debate on the legislation. "We just need a little more time to get through the entire bill," McCain said.

"I just learned ... that, who else, Coburn, won't let us move with the bill," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters Tuesday. "So unless something happens in that regard, we're going to have to use the new rules we have where [Mitch] McConnell and I can move forward ourselves. Or I'm going to have to file cloture."

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In an attempt to draw a sharp contrast with House Republicans, Senate Democrats on Tuesday revealed important details of their own upcoming budget resolution -- their first in four years -- which represents a return to the negotiating position President Obama adopted after his re-election in November.

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) praised the budget unveiled Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and emphasized in a statement that it seeks to balance federal spending and revenues within a decade.

“We owe it to the American people to balance the federal budget -- and Republicans have a plan to do it in 10 years. Our balanced budget is focused on growing our economy and expanding opportunities for all Americans. It cuts government waste, fixes our broken tax code to help create new jobs and increase wages for working families, repairs the safety net for struggling Americans, and protects and strengthens important priorities like Medicare and defense.

“I want to thank Chairman Ryan and all of the Republicans on the House Budget Committee for their work on putting together this balanced budget, and I would encourage President Obama and Senate Democrats to follow our lead. Washington’s long-time failure to address our country’s long-term challenges has been a stain on both parties. We can start setting things right by balancing the budget, and handing our children a booming economy instead of a mountain of debt.”

At his budget rollout Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) declined to pinpoint which tax loopholes he would use to make his large tax cuts revenue neutral, when asked about the argument that he would have to raise taxes on the middle class to achieve his targets.

"This is what the Ways and Means Committee is going to do," he said. "As you probably know, the Ways and Means Committee has set up working groups. The Ways and Means Committee is doing hearing after hearing going through the tax code and trying to figure out a better tax system. Our goal is to have a two bracket system that actually is pro-growth. And what that means is closing down loopholes, maintaining important ones -- that we're going to have hearings on to find out which ones are the more important ones for middle income taxpayers.

"You can actually plug loopholes and subject more of higher earners' income to taxation through a lower tax rate. We think that's smarter."