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

Michigan Republicans have introduced a bill requiring all women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before obtaining an abortion, a move that rekindles last year's firestorm when other GOP-led states were considering similar measures.

The legislation introduced Tuesday in the state House ensures the "performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus at least two hours before an abortion is performed" and requires her to sign a consent form prior to the abortion. The bill was introduced by state Rep. Joel Johnson (R) and cosponsored by 22 fellow lawmakers.

Johnson was not available for comment Wednesday, but his legislative aide, Ben Frederick, confirmed to TPM that, while the legislation does not specifically mention transvaginal ultrasounds, the bill aims to require women to undergo an ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion.

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Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on Wednesday called on Senate Republicans not to filibuster President Obama's nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which 43 GOP senators have pledged to do unless Democrats agree to weaken the board's authority.

He said in a statement:

“The GOP effort to undermine the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is an attack on America’s families. Predatory mortgages and other tricks and traps of the financial system have devastated too many working families. The CFPB was created, with the support of a supermajority of senators, to take on these egregious abuses and ensure that all Americans are protected from unfair and deceptive practices.

“The senators blocking Cordray must ask themselves a fundamental question. Does financial fairness for working families matter? I think it does.  Financial fairness is essential for successful families. Financial fairness is a family value.

“Richard Cordray is, by Republicans’ own admission, extremely well qualified. He has run the agency superbly.  He should be confirmed without delay.”

Merkley -- who led the charge for reforming the filibuster, which ended with a whimper last month -- accompanied his statement with a tweet.

There's no way in the world House Republicans would agree to raise any new revenue in order to avoid the upcoming automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, a senior GOP lawmaker said Tuesday afternoon.

"I'm all against raising any additional revenue on this. Look, these are written into law," Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip, told TPM between votes. Cole said there are other, preferable ways to make the sequester cuts that he is open to, but new revenue will not be part of the equation.

"We just had additional revenue for the federal government, so I don't see any way in the world the sequester won't happen either as written or renegotiated or reallocated cuts. But I don't see any revenue coming in the picture."

His comments, which echo the hardline position articulated by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently, came shortly after President Obama's televised remarks Tuesday afternoon calling on Congress to "delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months" if it cannot agree to a comprehensive solution by the March 1 deadline.

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) announced Tuesday that his state will turn down the Medicaid expansion, becoming the first governor of a blue state to officially say no to the coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act that the Supreme Court made optional.

"At this time, without serious reforms, it would be financially unsustainable for Pennsylvania taxpayers, and I cannot recommend a dramatic Medicaid expansion," Corbett wrote in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The decision will please conservative advocates who are urging leaders to stonewall Obamacare implementation. But it's a blow to the many thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians who would have received coverage through the program, which extends Medicaid eligibility to Americans up to 133 percent of the poverty line for participating states.

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Tension was palpable on Tuesday at the House's first hearing on immigration reform, held by the Judiciary Committee, as Republican lawmakers sought to explore middle ground between a swift pathway to citizenship that pro-immigration advocates prefer, and the status quo of massive numbers of undocumented people who are depressing working class wages.

Whether Congress can agree on what to do about the roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country has been a sticking point for immigration reform. It's a vexing political dilemma for Republicans in particular, who are caught between a conservative base that opposes an amnesty program and the need to win back Latino voters.

But the Republicans struggled to articulate what their ideal middle ground would be, if not a pathway to eventual citizenship for undocumented people who meet certain criteria.

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Rep. Luiz Gutiérrez (D-IL) signaled Tuesday that he does not see a middle ground sought by House Republican lawmakers between a pathway to citizenship and mass deportation for the roughly 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally.

"We've come to the conclusion that we need to figure out a way to integrate them," he told reporters. "Now let me just say this: I think it would be wrong for us to create a permanent underclass of people who live in this country who never can reach American citizenship. I want them to have all the responsibilities and obligations that come along with American citizenship... Because I think that's what integrates them into America."

Gutiérrez, an outspoken advocate for immigration reform, said he's continuing conversations with Republicans on how to resolve the issue and signaled that he's pleased with the direction they're moving in.

"We cannot give up on each other and on trying to find a solution to the problem."

Rep. Luiz Gutiérrez (D-IL), an outspoken advocate for immigration reform, applauded House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) on Tuesday afternoon for championing a path to citizenship for undocumented youth.

"Wow, that's wonderful," Gutiérrez told reporters. "That's great. That's good news, positive news. I'll have to go on the floor and thank the majority leader."

"Every day there's a new step in the right direction. There are people leaving their areas, their zones of comfort and moving -- and it's going to take that to get this done."

In response to a question Tuesday about whether immigration reform will get done this year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) encouraged the efforts of lawmakers in both parties who are working on the issue.

But he did not get into details.

"I want to applaud my colleagues on both sides of the Capitol and in both parties who've worked together to try to solve one of the bigger issues that we're dealing with in our country, and that's the issue of immigration," Boehner said at a press availability. "Both legal immigration and illegal immigration. And I want to applaud Senator Rubio for his efforts, and the bipartisan efforts here in the House. And what I want to do is to encourage both sides of the Capitol and both parties to continue talking to one another so we can resolve this issue in a bipartisan manner."

The Senate overwhelmingly agreed Monday to advance legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, winning over strong bipartisan support to bypass a filibuster and consider the renewal of domestic abuse funding that is currently on life support.

The motion to proceed to debate passed by a vote of 85-8. Final passage of the legislation is expected later this week.

Top Democrats revealed last Friday that they had lined up more than 60 votes for the legislation and would fast-track it to the floor. Last year, the measure passed 68-31 but died in the House after Republican leaders objected to provisions expanding protections to gays, illegal immigrants, college students and Native Americans who have suffered from domestic abuse.

Now, having eliminated a procedural hurdle to House passage, Democrats are twisting the knife.

"It is unthinkable that Republicans in the House would prevent us from taking action -- again refuse to do anything as they did last Congress," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said before the vote Monday. "Allowing partisan delays to put women's lives at risk is simply shameful. ... I hope the Senate's bipartisan action this week will send a strong message to House Republican leaders that further partisan delay is unacceptable."

Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced Monday that he will accept the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, becoming the fifth Republican governor to embrace the provision of the health care reform law that the Supreme Court made optional.

The governor unveiled the decision as part of his budget proposal.

"We are going to extend Medicaid for the working poor and for those who are jobless trying to find work," Kasich said at a press conference in Columbus. "It makes great sense for the state of Ohio because it will allow us to provide greater care with our own dollars."

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