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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

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) says he would rather see tax rates go up than raise revenue via loopholes now because that would leave more room for tax reform in the future.

"I know we have to raise revenue," he said Wednesday on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "I don't really care which way we do it. I would rather see the rates go up than do it the other way because it gives us greater chance to reform the tax code and broaden the base in the future."

Coburn has been vocal about the need to raise tax revenues, but endorsing a rate hike rather than increased revenues by closing tax deductions is an extraordinarily rare position for a Republican to take.

Though he deems it necessary to bridge the budget deficit, Coburn made clear he doesn't think raising tax revenues will help the economy.

"But to me, I think they're arguing over semantics," he said. "$800 billion is $800 billion. It's still going to be a negative drag on the economy."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) fierce resistance to reforming the filibuster isn't fazing Harry Reid, who insists that he will weaken the minority party's power to obstruct legislative business with Republican support or without it.

"There are discussions going on now, but I want to tell everybody here: I'm happy, I've had a number of Republicans come to me and a few Democrats," the Democratic majority leader told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "We're going to change the rules. We cannot continue in this way. So I hope we can get something Republicans will work with us on.

"But it won't be a handshake," Reid added. "We tried that last time; it didn't work."

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The Senate Tuesday fell short of the two-thirds vote required to ratify a United Nations treaty aimed at securing rights for disabled people around the world, when the vast majority of Republican senators voted against the treaty. The final vote was 61-38 vote. All the nay votes were Republican.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities essentially makes the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act a non-binding international standard. It requires no change to U.S. law.

Originally signed by then-President George W. Bush in 2006 and re-signed by President Barack Obama in 2009 shortly after he took office, the treaty has been championed by former Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), the one-time GOP presidential nominee who suffered a disability while serving in the Army in World War II. Dole was on the Senate floor Tuesday ahead of the ratification vote, in a wheelchair, accompanied by his wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC).

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House Democrats filed their discharge petition today seeking to force a vote on legislation that would extend middle income tax cuts and let the top marginal rates return to Clinton-era levels.

Filed by Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), the petition requires 218 signatories to succeed -- in other words, a significant number of Republicans.

"Our economy and our families cannot wait any longer for action and cannot afford a Republican tax increase on the middle class," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). "There’s no time to waste. The Senate has already passed this legislation; House Democrats are prepared to support it; President Obama is ready to sign it into law."

At his weekly briefing, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) called on all Democrats and sympathetic Republicans like Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) to sign the petition.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) joined the White House and top Democrats in rejecting the GOP's counter-offer on a fiscal cliff deal, lamenting that it harms the middle class and does not raise tax rates on high incomes.

He also indicated that an agreemtn must address the debt limit, which will need to be raised again early next year. "Republicans have made an offer," he said, "but now it is time for them to get serious about forging a balanced approach."

Reid's full statement late Monday:

“To protect millionaires, Speaker Boehner’s offer would force middle class families to pay higher taxes. Raising taxes on the middle class is bad policy and flunks the test of balance. To protect the middle class while reducing the deficit, simple math dictates that tax rates must rise on the top two percent of taxpayers next year. The sooner Republicans grasp that reality, the sooner we can avoid the fiscal cliff.

 “Democrats are willing to compromise, but any agreement must protect the middle class. We have also been clear that we have no intention of kicking the can down the road. Not only does Speaker Boehner’s proposal delay revenues into 2013, it sets up another destructive fight over the debt ceiling first thing next year. 

“Republicans have made an offer, but now it is time for them to get serious about forging a balanced approach.”

House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office offered a rejoinder to the White House's rejection of its fiscal cliff counter-proposal, inviting President Obama to come up with a plan that can pass Congress.

“Republicans have once again offered a responsible, balanced plan to avoid the fiscal cliff, and the White House has once again demonstrated how unreasonable it has become," Boehner's spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement emailed to TPM. "If the President is rejecting this middle ground offer, it is now his obligation to present a plan that can pass both chambers of Congress."

Republicans are working to quiet rumblings that, if all else fails, they may give in on the high income Bush tax cuts. But a newly reported "doomsday plan" to do just that may be the GOP's best way out of a bad situation: give a little, keep a lot, avoid blame for the fiscal cliff, and enter 2013 with the upper hand over President Obama.

ABC's Jonathan Karl heard from two senior Republican lawmakers that the most likely fallback plan is for House leadership to bring up the middle income Bush tax cuts for a vote later this month. A leadership aide told Karl the plan is under consideration but that no decisions have been made.

Here's how it would work.

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White House deficit commission co-chair Erskine Bowles, whose testimony Republicans cited as the model for their counter-offer to avoid the fiscal cliff, dismissed the GOP proposal.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Bowles, a former Clinton White House chief of staff, said that "circumstances have changed since" his remarks to the super committee in Nov. 2011, during which he offered a set of revenue and spending targets that formed the basis for the Republican offer presented in a letter to the White House today.

"In my testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, I simply took the mid-point of the public offers put forward during the negotiations to demonstrate where I thought a deal could be reached at that time," Bowles' statement said. "The Joint Select Committee failed to reach a deal, and circumstances have changed since then. It is up to negotiators to figure out where the middle ground is today."

"While I'm flattered the Speaker would call something 'the Bowles plan,'" he said, "the approach outlined in the letter Speaker Boehner sent to the President does not represent the Simpson-Bowles plan, nor is it the Bowles plan."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) slammed the GOP counter-offer to avoid the fiscal cliff as an "assault" on middle class Americans and the elderly, claiming it "only makes matters worse."

She said Democrats will file a discharge petition to force a vote on middle class tax cuts Tuesday.

Her statement in full:

“The Republican proposal is another assault on the middle class, seniors, and our future.  The American people made clear that they want us to work together on a balanced approach; yet, in the Republican plan, any alleged resemblance to an offer seeking balance and fairness is nonexistent.  It only makes matters worse.

“The Republican plan talks about seeking middle ground, yet reiterates their party’s commitment to put millionaires ahead of the middle class and Medicare.  Republicans are simply digging in their heels by refusing to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share and actually calling for lower tax rates. 

“Instead of wasting the public’s time, House Republicans should allow a vote on the Senate-passed middle income tax cuts to strengthen middle class families, spur growth in our economy, provide certainty to small businesses, and create jobs.  Democrats are filing a discharge petition, to force a vote on extending the middle income tax cut, on Tuesday at noon.  There’s no time to waste.”

Rep. Sander Levin (MI), the top Democrat on the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, responded in a statement to the GOP's counter-proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff.

“Speaker Boehner’s letter to the President today distorts the work of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, which assumed the expiration of the high-end Bush tax cuts and the continuation of the middle class tax cuts. Within that framework, House Republicans should join with Democrats in passing the Senate bill this week. Republicans remain in a state of denial. The recent election was not a status quo election but rather a validation of the President’s often-stated position on taxes. We must remain optimistic that Republicans will accept reality and not push our nation over the cliff.”  

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