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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

On the floor Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Democrats will introduce a sequester replacement plan later this week and called on Republicans to stop ruling out new revenues from affluent Americans as part of the deal.

From Reid's remarks:

Democrats believe we should replace this harsh austerity with a balanced approach that targets wasteful spending and tax loopholes, and asks the wealthiest among us to contribute a little more to reduce the deficit. The American people know we can’t cut our way to prosperity. They agree we cannot ask the middle class to bear the entire burden of deficit reduction.

Later this week, Democrats will introduce a plan to avert the so-called sequester.

Republicans say they agree the deep cuts they voted for would be damaging to our economy and to national security.  But they would rather cut Medicare, education and medical research than close a single wasteful tax loophole or ask a single millionaire to contribute more.  They should stop protecting millionaires, billionaires and wealthy corporations, and start working with us to pass an alternative to these terrible cuts that protects the middle class.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Wednesday shot down President Obama's proposal unveiled at the State of the Union to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.

"I've been deadling with the minimum wage issue for the last 28 years that I've been in elected office," he told reporters. "And when you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it. At a time when Americans are still asking the question 'Where are the jobs?' why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?"

He argued that raising the minimum wage makes it harder for low-skilled workers to enter the workforce and acquire skills to advance up the ladder.

"Listen, I've got 11 brothers and sisters on every rung of the economic ladder. I know about this issue as much as anybody in this town. And what happens when you take away the first couple of rungs on the economic ladder -- you make it harder for people to get on the ladder," Boehner said. "Our goal is to get people on the ladder and help them climb that ladder so they can live the American dream. And a lot of people who are being the paid minimum wage are being paid that because they come to the workforce with no skills. And this makes it harder for them to acquire the skills they need in order to climb that ladder successfully."

Moments later, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer responded to Boehner on Twitter:

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Wednesday morning that the House does not intend to pass a sequester replacement plan before the Senate acts.

"Listen we've played our cards. We've laid out our hand," Boehner told reporters. "We've passed a bill and sent it to the Senate. It's time for the Senate to do their job."

House Republicans point to legislation they passed last year to replace the sequester with targeted cuts to domestic programs. Now that the new Congress has been sworn in, that legislation is inactive. Passed a margin of 215-209, it's not clear House Republicans could pass it again because they have lost eight seats since then.

Asked Wednesday if House GOP leaders intend to wait for the Senate to act, Boehner said, "We do. We do. We do."

Sen. Linsdey Graham (R-SC) said Tuesday night that he was very disappointed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) threat not to honor his "hold" on the confirmation of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense.

"I'm very disappointed," Graham told a small group of reporters after the president's State of the Union speech. "I'm very upset about it and I'm going to fight back."

Graham said he will demand a cloture vote and hopes all Republicans will filibuster Hagel's nomination until the Obama administration provides the answers he wants.

"It gives double-standard a bad name. They really did go hard after [President] Bush when he -- his interrogation policies," Graham said. "They held up [John] Bolton for information. They're trying to jam Hagel through. We need more information about where he got his money and what speeches he gave."

"Chuck Hagel's a good man but they're stonewalling us on Benghazi."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters Tuesday night after the State of the Union that President Obama's impassioned plea to strengthen gun safety laws amount to "political theater."

"I think it's more political theater than anything else," Graham said. "And I'm sad for the families but he didn't mention all the families that were saved from rape and murder by owning a gun."

"So I just think there's going to be bipartisan opposition to an assault weapons ban."

As for background checks, Graham said, "When you're prosecuting 44 people out of 80,000 who fail a background check, you don't need to expand background checks, you need to enforce the law that we have. Nobody is going to be deterred when you only prosecute 44 people out of 80,000 who fail a background check. That to me is absolutely ridiculous and an embarrassment. You've got a better chance of getting hit by a meteor than you do getting caught relying on background checks."

No. 3 Republican Sen. John Thune (SD) said Tuesday night after the State of the Union that President Obama's proposals to save Medicare don't go far enough.

"All he said was he would agree to a number [of health savings] that was in Bowles-Simpson," Thune told a small group of reporters, "and that was a fairly modest number. And most of it was achieved not be structural reforms but by cuts to providers and some other things."

Asked Tuesday night after the State of the Union if the Senate should vote on President Obama's proposals to reform gun laws, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) had a response: Ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

"Well, it's going to be up to the majority leader if he wants to bring a bill up on the floor," Thune told a small group of reporters. "I assume there's going to be some action up here at some point on that legislation. I don't know what it's going to look like yet. I assume there'll be lots of votes on lots of different issues."

Obama made an impassioned plea for improved gun safety during his speech, naming victims of gun violence and repeatedly saying, "They deserve a vote," to thunderous applause in the chamber.

Reid has long been skeptical of gun control laws but says he supports items like stiffer background checks.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Obama announced the creation of a "non-partisan commission" that aims to protect voting rights.

But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone.  We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home.  That includes our most fundamental right as citizens:  the right to vote.  When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.  That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.  And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it.  We can fix this, and we will.  The American people demand it.  And so does our democracy.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama called for making "high-quality preschool" available to every child in the United States, although he didn't offer specifics.

He said:

Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.  But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program.  Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool.  And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. 

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.  Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.  In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own.  So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.  Let’s give our kids that chance.

President Obama made a passionate plea for addressing the threat of climate change in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, citing an overwhelming scientific consensus and climate trends to call for action "before it's too late."

From his speech:

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.  Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend.  But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.  Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense.  We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.  Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth.  I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.  But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.  I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

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