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

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) offered his Republican counterpart an ultimatum on Tuesday afternoon: come to a deal on filibuster reform soon or Democrats will do it on our own.

"I hope that within the next 24 to 36 hours, we can get something that we agree on," Reid told reporters in the Capitol. "If not we're going to move forward on what I think needs to be done. The caucus will support me on that."

The Democratic majority leader has vowed to weaken the filibuster but is deferring action while he continues weeks-long negotiations with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over a resolution. He's keeping his options open to change the rules with a 51-vote majority if a deal is not reached.

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The Obamacare repeal dream lives on.

Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT) and Lamar Alexander (TN) re-introduced legislation Tuesday that would eliminate the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.

"This legislation we are introducing today is simple: it strikes the individual mandate, so we can instead find ways of providing people with health care, but in a manner that doesn't run counter to our constitutional framework of limited government," Hatch said in a statement.

Although the mandate faces implementation obstacles, proponents and opponents broadly agree that President Obama's re-election secured its survival. It has also withstood challenges in the Supreme Court and at the ballot box.

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After a weekly meeting with the Democratic conference Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) issued a statement calling on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to reform the filibuster with 51 votes.

“Leader Reid has left open two paths to rules changes. While I’ve always thought that improving how the Senate works should be an area ripe for bipartisan agreement, it is clear at this point that the constitutional option would produce the strongest package and make the Senate more functional. We face big challenges, and we can’t tackle those challenges if we miss this rare opportunity to end the paralysis of the Senate."

Reid has been negotiating with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over the prospect of reaching an agreement to avoid the constitutional option for changing the rules.

Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) plan to introduce legislation Wednesday that would require senators to pass a budget each year in order to receive pay, Heller's office said.

The idea, proposed by Heller back in July 2011, is similar to what House Republican leaders are pushing as part of their strategy to address the need to raise the country's borrowing limit.

The legislation will be co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander (TN), Kelly Ayotte (NH), John Boozman (AR), John Cornyn (TX) and Mike Enzi (WY), according to Heller.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) signaled Tuesday that the Senate will move on to filibuster reform once it finalizes the relief package for victims of superstorm Sandy.

He said on the Senate floor:

Once we complete that vital legislation, the Senate will take action to make this institution that we all love work more effectively. We will consider changes to the United States Senate rules.

Because this matter warrants additional debate, today we will follow the precedents set in 2005 and again in 2011. We will reserve the right of all Senators to propose changes to the Senate rules.  And we will explicitly not acquiesce in the carrying over of all the rules from the last Congress. It is my intention that the Senate will recess today, rather than adjourn, to continue the same legislative day, and allow this important rules discussion to continue. I am hopeful the Republican leader and I will reach an agreement that allows the Senate to operate more effectively.

By opting to "recess" rather than "adjourn," Reid would continue the first legislative day of the new session and therefore leave room to reform the filibuster with 51 votes.

Freshman Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) signed on to the Merkley-Udall "talking filibuster" proposal Tuesday, characterizing her move as an effort to end partisan gridlock and change the status quo.

Baldwin said in a statement:

"I was elected to put progress ahead of politics and to make sure that Washington works for Wisconsin. Unfortunately, Washington has come to be defined by partisan gridlock. Recently, the threat of filibuster has been used far too often and as a result political obstructionism in the United States Senate is now worse than it has ever been. The people of Wisconsin and our state's progressive tradition deserve better. I will proudly join Senator Tom Udall and Senator Jeff Merkley by co- sponsoring legislation to reform the use of the filibuster in the United States Senate. We face big challenges that demand effective government action and solutions not more of the same standstill that has become the status quo in Washington. The time for reform is now so we can work together to move Wisconsin and America forward."

President Obama on Monday became the first American president to refer to gay rights in an inaugural address, drawing effusive praise from gay rights advocates for his strong embrace of the cause and reflecting how much his views have changed.

"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law," the president said, "for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

He invoked the Stonewall riots of 1969, a landmark event in the history of the gay rights movement, tying them to seminal events in the battles for women's suffrage and civil rights.

"We, the people," Obama said, "declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall."

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) congratuled President Obama and Vice President Biden in remarks at a Capitol luncheon shortly after the inauguration ceremony Monday.

His remarks in full:

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Old Hall of the House.  The people’s representatives met in this chamber over the five decades prior to the Civil War.

“It’s a wonder they made it here that long.  See, the acoustics were terrible.   You just couldn’t hear anything.  Or, in some spots, you could hear everything being said in the room.  It was a mess.  And that, of course, was a time when our leaders weren’t hearing each other all that well to begin with.

“A century and a half – and many architectural improvements later – we gather in the Old Hall to better hear one another and renew the old appeal to better angels.  We do so amid the rituals and symbols of unity, none more enduring than our flag.

“This year, Old Glory will mark a milestone of her own.  It was in the spring of 1813 that the new commander at Fort McHenry ordered a flag to be flown over the entrance to Baltimore Harbor.  ‘It should be so large,’ he said, ‘that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.

“For such an enormous banner, a mother-and-daughter team had to stitch together overlapping strips of wool to make the product a complete whole.  From many, one.  So a grand old flag was born, and not long after, an anthem to go with it.  Today, wherever we put out the flag, whenever he hear it snapping in the wind, it gives proof of the blessing we call democracy – this symphony of service and faithfulness in which we all play a part.

“So in the spirit of harmony, I am proud to present the flags that flew over this battalion of democracy today to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.  To you gentlemen, I say congratulations and Godspeed.”

The Human Rights Campaign effusively praised President Obama after he offered a strong embrace of gay rights in his inaugural address Monday.

The statement in full from HRC's president, Chad Griffin:

“President Barack Obama made history today by connecting the lives of committed and loving lesbian and gay couples fighting for marriage equality to this nation's proud tradition of equal rights for all. Moments after swearing to uphold the Constitution for all Americans on Bibles owned by Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Obama declared passionately that our national journey towards a more perfect union cannot be finished until equal protection under the law extends to each and every American regardless of who they are or whom they love.

“By lifting up the lives of LGBT families for the very first time in an inaugural address, President Obama sent a clear message to LGBT young people from the Gulf Coast to the Rocky Mountains that this country's leaders will fight for them until equality is the law of the land. As the merits of marriage equality come up for debate from state houses to the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a broad majority of Americans are standing up for liberty and fairness, the President's unequivocal support for equality is a clarion call that all Americans should receive with celebration.

“We were honored that the President included Stonewall among the historic events in American history that have made our union stronger. Its inclusion is testament to the valiant contributions of LGBT Americans past and present who seek nothing more than to be treated equally by the country they love.”

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the top Democrat on the Energy & Commerce Committee, said he was very pleased with President Obama's emphasis on climate change during his inaugural address Monday.

"I though he gave a great speech, and I was so pleased that the first thing he mentioned was climate change," Waxman told TPM. "I think he's got a commitment on this issue and is going to make sure in the second term that is a very high priority. I'm very pleased."

Obama said in his address: "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms."


Obama Prepares For DHS Shutdown

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama convened a meeting with key administration officials on Friday…