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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

Exhibit A: Presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney is warning his donors that Republicans must win back Hispanic voters or face "demographic doom."

Exhibit B: House Republicans are pushing policies that disproportionately harm Hispanics.

This study in contrast leaves Republicans on the horns of an election-year dilemma: As they eagerly seek to rebuild bridges with Hispanics, party leaders are simultaneously pushing bills that would make life harder for members of that same community.

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Senate Democratic women are renewing their call for Republicans to drop their opposition to expanded provisions in the Violence Against Women Act re-authorization, painting the GOP into a corner on a red-hot political issue.

Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) held a Capitol press briefing Wednesday to announce that the Democratic-led measure already has 61 cosponsors -- suggesting Republicans lack the votes for a filibuster -- and to lament continued opposition from some Republicans.

"It really is a shame that we've gotten to this point," Murray said, "That we even have to stand here today to urge our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to support legislation that has consistently received broad, bipartisan approval."

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For anyone who paid even passing attention to U.S. politics in 2011, the themes were loud and persistent: Republicans had stormed back into Washington to put an end to excessive government spending and runaway deficits, and would take no prisoners if Democrats stood in their way. The GOP's bravado manifested in a series of partisan clashes over must-pass legislation, and climaxed in near economic calamity when Republicans refused to raise the federal debt limit.

Fast-forward to 2012 -- the GOP's leverage is gone, and the legislative landscape on Capitol Hill has fallowed. Republicans are still running on deficit reduction, but as the election nears, their governing agenda reveals something that close observers recognized all along: Deficit reduction was never the point. Whether acceding to political reality, or proactively moving messaging bills through the House, the GOP has quietly let on that they're fine with deficits -- as long as they come in the right flavors.

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They'll have to make do. But conservative House Republicans are having a hard time finding anything praiseworthy to say about their party's presumptive presidential nominee.

Fourteen GOP conservatives sat together Tuesday on a Capitol Hill panel to field questions from a few dozen reporters and other attendees about the political issues of the day. When asked, predictably, to provide their thoughts about Mitt Romney, they turned decidedly lukewarm.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) summed up the conservative mood with a joke that won laughter from the audience, but might have hit too close to home for many in the GOP.

"Whether you're liberal, whether you're very conservative," he said, "you ought to be excited [about Romney] because he's been on your side at one time or another."

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All the Senate Republicans -- and even some Democrats -- who've attacked President Obama for refusing to embrace the storied Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan in 2010 may end up with a chance to replace their preening with recorded votes.

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced Tuesday that he will introduce the framework as a blueprint for the upper-chamber's official budget resolution -- a response to Republicans who for years have hectored him and his party for failing to advance a plan with a vision for the country's future.

At a Capitol press briefing, Conrad downplayed expectations of the plan passing anytime soon, pointing out that it will take time for the fiscal commission report, issued in late 2010, to be adjusted for economic and policy developments that have occurred in the intervening months. He also expressed doubt that any long-term budget can be agreed to in the polarized 112th Congress.

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Rep. Barney Frank told TPM Tuesday morning that the National Republican Congressional Committee is "twisting my words" by citing a recent interview to say Frank believes the Affordable Care Act is a "disaster."

"No, I have no issue with the subject matter or the bill itself," Frank said. "I was just commenting on the politics. And I was saying it was a mistake to have done it first." He was arguing that Democrats should have prioritized financial reform, Frank insisted -- which was more popular, and for which which Frank was the point person -- before moving on to health care.

In the interview with New York magazine, Frank said, "I think we paid a terrible price for health care. I would not have pushed it as hard. As a matter of fact, after Scott Brown won, I suggested going back. I would have started with financial reform but certainly not health care."

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Senate Republicans defeated a motion to take up Buffett Rule legislation the day before taxes are due.

Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill late Monday. The final party-line vote was 51 in favor, 45 against, with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) breaking ranks with their leadership. The sharp contrast promises to be a defining issue in the presidential election this November.

The principle behind the rule -- that people making over $1 million a year should pay at least 30 percent in taxes -- was championed by President Obama in his State of the Union this year and subsequently written into legislation by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The rule includes nuances and exceptions aimed at minimizing adverse incentives. It's expected to raise tax receipts by $47 billion over 10 years, although Democrats say that figure would be at least $160 billion if the Bush tax cuts are extended.

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Not long ago, Mitt Romney was bashing President Obama for a "hot mic" moment. Now, Democrats are making hay out of Mitt Romney's overheard private comments at a fundraiser, in which he offered up some details about tax loopholes he'll close and vowed to take the hatchet to federal departments.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer on Monday called the remarks "a rare moment of candor where he gave his unvarnished view" that helped "pull back the curtain" on his policies which have largely remained a secret.

On a conference call with reporters hosted by the DNC, Schumer noted that the tax promises Romney made during a high-dollar fundraiser don't add up, and argued that "the only way" the ex-governor can pay for his high-end tax cuts is to "clobber" the middle class with damaging cuts to federal departments like education and housing.

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Mitt Romney's remarks at a private fundraiser Sunday, overheard by two campaign reporters, reveal that, even when confiding in well-heeled supporters, his tax plan doesn't add up.

At a Palm Beach, Fla. estate, Romney told big-money donors he'll "probably eliminate for high-income people" the mortgage interest deduction on second homes, as well as deductions for state income and property taxes. "By virtue of doing that, we'll get the same tax revenue, but we'll have lower rates," he said, in remarks overheard by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

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The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a statement of administration policy voicing "strong support" for the Buffett Rule legislation the Senate is currently debating and set to hold a cloture vote on late Monday.

OMB said:

The Administration believes that S. 2230 would not only make the Nation's tax system more fair, but will also help the economy by closing inefficient tax shelters and loopholes and by allowing the Nation to continue making the vital investments that strengthen the economy and provide economic security for middle class families. All Americans are being asked to come together to make the sort of shared sacrifices that will allow the Nation to continue making crucial investments in areas that will help the economy grow and create jobs, such as education, research, and infrastructure. In such a time, the Administration believes that continuing to allow some of the wealthiest Americans to use special tax breaks to avoid paying their fair share simply cannot be justified.

Republicans are expected to successfully block cloture, which requires 60 senators. Democrats say they'll continue pushing the rule whether or not it passes today.

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