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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

No. 3 Republican Sen. John Thune will not run for the position of minority whip, according to Politico, which reported that he told colleagues he'll remain Senate Republican Conference Chairman.

That clears a path for No. 4 Republican Sen. John Cornyn to seek the No. 2 role. Cornyn was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee this cycle.

Democrats may have held on to the White House and romped in the Senate, but they fell well short of taking back the House of Representatives on Tuesday -- a goal they'd set out for themselves from the moment they lost it in a 2010 landslide.

In the end, it wasn't even close: networks declared early Tuesday night that Republicans would keep their House majority. Some results are not yet final, but even if Democrats gain some seats they'll fall far short of the 25 they needed to retake the chamber.

How'd that happen? After all, the GOP won a huge number of seats in the historic midterm elections two years ago, suggesting the partisan pendulum should have been poised to swing back toward the Democrats in a substantial way. And from the moment Republicans swarmed Capitol Hill in January 2011, they embarked on a kamikaze quest to thwart President Obama's agenda, and threw their weight behind an unpopular plan to privatize Medicare -- a plan that became central to Democratic efforts to wrest back control of the House. As a consequence, congressional approval ratings plummeted below 10 percent.

Why wasn't this a recipe for a Democratic rebound?

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One day after Republicans comfortably held control of the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA) flexed the muscle of his caucus and spoke out in opposition to any increase in tax rates.

He said in an afternoon statement:

"I'd like to congratulate President Obama on his re-election. Congratulations are also due to House Republicans who were sent back to Washington with a strong majority. We now know the results of the election, but what are the results for the American people?

"I hope President Obama responds to this election by making an effort to work with Republicans. There is no mandate for raising tax rates on the American people. There is a mandate for avoiding the fiscal cliff and finding real solutions so we can make life work for people again.

"Higher tax rates won't create jobs and they won't solve our spending crisis. Massive defense cuts won't make us safer and won't support our troops. Ingnoring the problems of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid won't help people get better health care or prepare for a secure retirement. The fiscal cliff is looming, and we must provide real solutions, or face dire consequences.

"Small business owners want results, in the name of substantive tax reform and a smarter regulatory environment. Families want results, in the name of a less intrusive government, better schools and more take home pay. Delivering results will boost people's confidence in Washington and restore the promise of a brighter economic future.

"I stand with Speaker Boehner when he says 'let's rise above the dysfunction, and do the right thing together for our country.' We will work together, and with our Republican majority, to create opportunity for families, to give those in need a fair shot and to take smart steps toward a stronger American economy. Economic growth, entitlement reform and solving our spending crisis are our top priorities, and I look forward to working with President Obama to meet these challenges."

Americans have spoken, declared Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Wednesday: tax revenues must be part of any fiscal deal going forward.

"The American people spoke very loudly in the presidential and congressional races and said we need to have everything on the table including revenues to solve our problems," she said.

The Democratic leadership member and incoming Budget Committee chairman spoke to reporters this afternoon about Democrats' outlook in avoiding the fiscal cliff. 

It's an extension of the message Murray, Democratic leaders and President Obama have stood by -- and campaigned on -- since last year. She insisted that Democrats won't budge on any fiscal agreement unless Republican drop their opposition to new tax revenues as well as government spending cuts.

"The Republicans have clearly let the tea party take them the extremes," she said. "We're not going to let them take the country to the extremes."

Democrat Jon Tester is claiming victory in his race to remain the senator from Montana after the Associated Press declared him the winner Wednesday morning.

The first-term senator was ahead of Republican Denny Rehberg by 49-45 percent -- about 18,000 votes -- with 83 percent of the vote in, according to CNN.

The two fought a neck-and-neck battle in the bright-red state. Rehberg, currently the state's lone congressman, is a senior member of the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee.

Moments after AP called the race, the Tester campaign announced that the senator would deliver a victory speech in Great Falls.

Democrat Heidi Heitkamp looks poised to defeat Republican Rick Berg to become the next senator from North Dakota.

The race remains tight and has not been called by the networks as of Wednesday morning, but with 93 percent reporting, CNN had Heitkamp ahead by some 3,000 votes.

Berg -- a first term congressman who was elected during the 2010 tea party wave -- could still request a recount.

If she wins, Heitkamp, a former attorney general of the state, would replace Sen. Kent Conrad (D), the chairman of the Budget Committee, who did not seek reelection. Her showing in the bright-red state that Mitt Romney easily carried came as a surprise to many.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R) has defeated Richard Carmona (D) to become the next senator from Arizona, cable networks projected.

The congressman, who has served in the House since 2001, ran as a conservative focused on opposing government spending and earmarks.

He will replace Sen. Jon Kyl (R), the No. 2 Republican in the chamber who did not seek reelection.

Carmona, a physician and former public health official, was long seen as the underdog in the solidly Republican state but mounted a serious challenge for the seat, running close to Flake in numerous polls.

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In a statement provided to TPM Wednesday morning, Rep. Paul Ryan thanked Mitt Romney and said he's looking forward to returning to the House of Representatives as budget chief.

"I am immensely proud of the campaign we ran, and I remain grateful to Governor Romney for the honor of being his running mate," he said. "I look forward to spending some time with my family in the coming days and then continuing my responsibilities as chairman of the House Budget Committee and representative of Wisconsin's First Congressional District."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will deliver remarks "on the fiscal cliff and the need for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs" this afternoon, according to an advisory from his office.

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