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

Speaking on the floor the morning of the State of the Union, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called on President Obama not to offer any "left-wing" proposals.

From McConnell's remarks Tuesday:

“Tonight, we’ll welcome the President to the Capitol to deliver his State of the Union address.

“As I mentioned yesterday, Republicans will be listening with great interest to see where the President plans to take the country over the coming year. Some media outlets are already reporting that we’ll be subjected to another litany of left-wing proposals, with plenty of red meat for the President’s base. I hope not. The campaign is over, and the fact is, if the President plans to accomplish anything good for the country in the coming months, he’s going to have to go through a Republican-controlled House.

“So this morning I’d like to humbly suggest once again that it’s time for the President to reach out to Congress, including Republicans, and make divided government work. That’s how he’ll actually address the issues Americans are most concerned about right now. It’s the only way.

The Senate will hold a final vote on the Violence Against Women Act on Tuesday afternoon after wrapping up debate and amendments, according to a Senate Democratic aide.

The Senate has rejected two Republican-led amendments -- one to replace the legislation with a scaled back version and another to eliminate a provision designed to beef up protections for Native American women who suffer abuse.

The Senate late Monday defeated a Republican-backed amendment to eliminate a provision of the Violence Against Women Act aimed at beefing up protections for Native American women, setting the stage for final passage of the reauthorization Tuesday.

The amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) would have stripped out language in the bill that allows tribal regions to prosecute non-Native Americans accused of committing crimes against Native Americans.

"What we've done with this solution is to trample on the Bill of Rights of every American who's not a Native American," Coburn said. "And I have no doubt -- I am a hundred percent certain that this portion of the bill is going to be thrown out by the first federal judge that hears it."

It was voted down by a 31-59 margin.

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The White House on Monday categorically ruled out raising the Medicare eligibility age as part of deficit reduction.

Asked during his daily press briefing if President Obama is willing to consider the idea, spokesman Jay Carney said, "No."

"The president's made clear that we don't believe that's the right policy to take," he told reporters.

The White House was never fond of the idea, which Republicans and conservative advocates support, but was open to gradually raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 as part of a broader deal in prior deficit reduction talks. Carney's remarks nix the proposal in the White House's most explicit terms yet.

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The conservative grassroots is pushing lawmakers to vote against the Senate's reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which has 62 cosponsors and is slated for a final vote early this week.

Heritage Action and FreedomWorks, two well-financed right wing activist groups, are lobbying to scuttle the reauthorization. In short, they lament the expanded provisions, which beefs up funding for local law enforcement to prosecute domestic abusers while expanding coverage to gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans. They claim VAWA hasn't proved to be effective and argue that federal funding for law enforcement is both redundant and unconstitutional.

In a blog post, FreedomWorks criticized the cost of the legislation -- $660 million -- and pointed out that domestic violence is "already illegal in all 50 states." It added: "Supporters of the VAWA portray women as helpless victims - this is the kind of attitude that is setting women back."

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Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Monday responded fiercely to the conservative advocacy groups who are whipping against the Violence Against Women Act by arguing that the Senate's reauthorization would unncessarily expand the scope of the law and treat men unfairly.

"It is really quite insulting to the millions of women who would be covered under this new legislation," Murray told TPM in a statement. "Are these out-of-touch, extremist groups prepared to tell Native American women that the new provisions aimed at protecting them are ‘unnecessary’ -- when one in three of them will be raped in their lifetime? These women live on lands that are hours away from the nearest federal prosecutors. And for non-tribal members on these lands who perpetrate violent crimes against the women living there, this equates to nothing short of a safe-haven. Free from tribal jurisdiction, these are places where they can repeatedly commit horrific acts without being afraid of being brought to justice."

"VAWA has attained such broad support because it’s worked," she said. "It has never been a political football and we cannot start picking winners and losers on who gets these critical protections."

A new alliance between conservative pro-reform constituencies including religious leaders, law enforcement and the business community adds momentum to the push for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.

On a conference call Monday, leaders from the Texas Association of Business, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and the National Immigration Forum joined former top law enforcement officials to announce the alliance, calling it "Bibles, Badges and Business."

"For the last two years, conservative leaders who hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business have gathered in the mountain west, the midwest, the southeast and our nation's capital to forge a new consensus on immigrants in America, moving our nation closer to a 21th century immigration process," Ali Noorani, the executive director of National Immigration Forum, told reporters. "And across the country and on the hill, these conversations are turning into action."

He said "Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform" will not formally take positions on legislation but will espouse principles including creating a "road to lawful status and citizenship" for undocumented immigrants, respecting those who are waiting in line to become immigrants, modernizing laws for future flow of employment- and family-based immigration and recognizing the need for border security.

The Senate is poised to pass the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization early this week, with a final vote expected Monday afternoon or Tuesday.

The legislation enjoys broad bipartisan support in the Senate; it has 62 sponsors and moved forward last week by a vote of 85-8. The Senate voted 34-65 to reject an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to replace the measure with a scaled-back reauthorization.

After voting on additional amendments, including one by VAWA chief sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to beef up resources to combat human trafficking, the legislation is expected to pass with expanded provisions to extend coverage to gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans who suffer from domestic abuse.

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Stark divisions within the upper echelons of Mississippi's government have all but sunk the prospects for a state-run insurance exchange that would give residents greater power over their health care system.

The core division lies between Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who took office one year ago and is determined to stonewall the implementation of Obamacare, and state Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney, who believes that building an exchange as encouraged by the health care law is the right way to go.

That division is now on display: the Obama administration this week rejected Mississippi's application for a state-based exchange, filed by Chaney against his governor's wishes -- and blamed Bryant.

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Senate Democrats have scheduled the vote on final passage of the Violence Against Women Act for early next week -- either late Monday or Tuesday, according to Majority Whip Dick Durbin's (D-IL) office.

The vote on the completed bill was expected to happen by the end of this week, but additional time needed for debate and amendments, and the fact that the chamber is not in session Friday, led to it being postponed.

The measure enjoys strong bipartisan support.