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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

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the newly elected Minority Whip, invoked the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission Wednesday as a "roadmap" for upcoming deficit-reduction negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff.

"We know what [our problems are] in the lame duck and we know what those are going forward -- there's no mystery about that," he told reporters in the Capitol. "Nor is there really any mystery to some of the solutions, based on the president's own bipartisan fiscal commission and others, that have sort of laid out the roadmap, and have shown us the way to address those issues."

Republicans have praised the plan's cuts to domestic and safety net spending, but have joined conservative activists in rejecting its multi-trillion dollar tax increases.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has been elected Republican Whip, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Wednesday to reporters in the Capitol.

"I'm honored to have been chosen by my colleagues to help lead our caucus during such a critical time for this country," he said. "Core Texas values like hard work, limited government, and individual liberty will continue to guide me in this new role. I look forward to working with the Conference to tackle the major hurdles before us, beginning with the looming fiscal cliff."

Cornyn cited as his "role model" outgoing Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who did not seek re-election.

Cornyn chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee this cycle -- a position that will next be taken up by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS).

Sen. John Thune will remain Republican Conference Chairman.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will stay on as Democratic leaders next Congress, two sources close to her confirm to TPM.

She informed her caucus of the decision early Wednesday, and will announce it to the press later this morning.

"Ten years ago today, Nancy Pelosi was elected as the first woman to lead a political party in Congress," one source said. "She will continue to lead a united Democratic Caucus that will play a crucial role in developing a responsible deficit reduction package – working with President Obama and our colleagues in the Senate – that protects Social Security and Medicare, the middle class and children, while asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share."

The second source said, "Newly elected members [are] behind her. Talked about the diversity of the class. Elected to be problem solvers."

 

A battle over a key leadership position has split senior House Republicans.

Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA) and Tom Price (GA) will go head-to-head Wednesday afternoon as the members hold a closed-door vote to elect the next House Republican Conference Chairman, the party's No. 4 leadership role.

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Outgoing Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) told reporters Tuesday that he has no existing plans to seek office again but did not rule out a future run.

"I'm not even concerned about that right now," he said during a press briefing in the Capitol, adding that the country faces huge challenges.

In response to a question, he said Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), a rumored candidate for Secretary of State, would be an "excellent" choice for the job. If Kerry vacates his seat, Brown would have the option of making another run for senator.

"We'll see what happens," Brown said.

"Aside from my marriage to my wife and the birth of my kids, serving in the Senate has been the greatest honor of my life," he said. "[There isn't] an opening for senator. But there is an opening for a dad and a husband."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) offered his take on the fiscal cliff in a floor speech Tuesday, calling on the House to take up the Senate-passed bill to avert tax hikes on middle incomes.

An excerpt from Reid's speech:

"In fact, we could avert the fiscal cliff for 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses today. The House must only consider the Senate-passed bill freezing tax rates for those making less than $250,000 a year.

"This Congress is but one vote away from avoiding the fiscal cliff for middle class families and small businesses.

In a floor speech Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said President Obama should not overinterpret his re-election victory, arguing that control of the White House, Senate and House remains what it was in the wake of the 2010 Republican wave.

An excerpt from McConnell's speech:

“In politics, there is always a temptation among those who win office to think they have a mandate to do what they will. But it’s important to remember that in this case the voters also re-elected a Republican-controlled House last week, and a closely divided Senate. And in a government of three equal branches, that’s hardly irrelevant.

“Most people may focus on the White House, but the fact is, the government is organized no differently today than it was after the Republican wave of 2010.

Senate Democrats will enter the new year with an expanded majority of 55-45, having gained two seats in the election. They may be emboldened, but Republicans will retain the ability to slow down or halt their agenda with the use of the filibuster, which requires 41 senators.

If Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to wield the filibuster as routinely as he did in President Obama's first term, Majority Leader Harry Reid will need to pick off at least five Republican senators to advance initiatives.

Here are his five most likely targets.

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In the wake of President Obama's reelection, due in part to his winning Hispanic voters by 44 points, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have restarted bipartisan discussions over comprehensive immigration reform.

On the Sunday talk shows, both sounded bullish about reaching an agreement.

"Senator Graham and I have talked, and we are resuming the talks that were broken off two years ago," Schumer said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "We had put together a comprehensive detailed blueprint on immigration reform. It had the real potential for bipartisan support."

"Graham and I are talking to our colleagues about this right now," he said, "and I think we have a darn good chance using this blueprint to get something done this year."

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