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

After shelving the legislation Wednesday night, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) intends to prioritize relief for victims of superstorm Sandy in the new Congress, his office said.

"The Speaker will make the supplemental his first priority in the new Congress," a Boehner aide told TPM.

The aide said Boehner has shared his intentions with members of the New York and New Jersey delegations.

Late Tuesday night, President Obama praised the House's passage of the Senate-approved fiscal cliff agreement to prevent a variety of tax hikes on middle class Americans.

The bill now heads to the president's desk. He thanked Vice President Joe Biden and all four congressional leaders for their work.

"Everybody worked very hard on this and I appreciate it," he said.

Obama called for additional deficit reduction in the form of "further reforms to our tax code" and spending cuts. But he reiterated his vow not to play games with the debt limit again.

"I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills for laws they have already racked up," he said.

Updated 11:30 p.m. ET

Legislation to avert the fiscal cliff has passed both chambers of Congress. The Senate passed it in the first few hours of 2013 and the House approved it shortly before midnight Tuesday. President Obama will soon sign it into law.

In short, the bill lets a variety of taxes increase for affluent Americans, averts most middle class tax hikes and leaves entitlement programs untouched. Here's a rundown of the details, according to a White House summary.

Read More →

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told TPM that if House Republicans amend the Senate bill to include spending cuts they'll effectively kill the deal.

"If they do that'll kill the package," he said after a Democratic caucus meeting.

"I would not predict what these people will try to do because they are in thrall to extremists," Frank said. "But if they amend this I don't know how they think they -- an amendment basically says, our ideology is too rigid and we're not really trying to really [reach a deal]."

Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office said his members have expressed "universal concern" with the agreement's lack of spending cuts. Rumors on Capitol Hill are that the House GOP is considering amending the legislation and sending it back to the Senate.

House Democratic leaders demanded an up-or-down vote on the Senate deal on Tuesday afternoon.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) declined to discuss whether a GOP amendment to include spending cuts would threaten the bill.

"Look, the country deserves an up or down vote on the compromise bipartisan bill that passed the Senate," he told TPM. "What we're calling for is an up or down vote. Let democracy work its will. ... Let's just take this step by step."

House Republicans expressed "universal concern" with the lack of spending cuts in the fiscal cliff deal passed overwhelmingly by the Senate, said Speaker John Boehner's spokesman Brendan Buck.

"The Speaker and Leader laid out options to the members and listened to feedback," Buck said in an emailed statement. "The lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill was a universal concern amongst members in today’s meeting. Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called on GOP leadership to hold a "straight up or down vote" on the Senate-passed legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.

Flanked by Democratic leaders, she told reporters in the Capitol that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has a duty to permit a floor vote in order to prevent middle class taxes from rising.

The Congressional Budget Office has issued its score (PDF) on the Senate-passed fiscal cliff agreement.

The net effect of the tax and budgetary provisions will be to increase the deficit by $3.97 trillion between 2013 and 2022 relative to current law, CBO found.

FreedomWorks and Heritage Action are whipping members of Congress against the Senate legislation to avoid the fiscal cliff, scoring it as a key vote.

The two conservative activist groups issued separate statements in opposition to the bill, which passed the Senate anyway but could give House Republicans pause.

FreedomWorks' Matt Kibbe asked group members to call their senators "vote NO on the McConnell-Obama bill to raise taxes and postpone the promised sequester savings."

Heritage dubbed it a "kick-the-can tax increase."

The socially conservative Family Research Council denounced the Senate-passed fiscal cliff agreement for its lack of "spending cuts or entitlement reform" -- and said it effectively penalizes married couples by leaving joint tax filers with less than twice the standard deduction for individuals.

FRC's statement Tuesday:

"To make matters worse, President Obama's fiscal cliff deal would impose a marriage penalty on many American families. For real, long term solutions to our nation's fiscal problems, the government should not be working to further dissuade couples from getting married.

"Research out of Family Research Council's Marriage and Religion Research Institute routinely shows that married couples with children create the most capital and generate the most income on average. This economic activity leads to higher revenue for government and more capital for economic expansion. Why then would we penalize marriage? We should be encouraging family formation, not penalizing it.