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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

The White House on Monday categorically ruled out raising the Medicare eligibility age as part of deficit reduction.

Asked during his daily press briefing if President Obama is willing to consider the idea, spokesman Jay Carney said, "No."

"The president's made clear that we don't believe that's the right policy to take," he told reporters.

The White House was never fond of the idea, which Republicans and conservative advocates support, but was open to gradually raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 as part of a broader deal in prior deficit reduction talks. Carney's remarks nix the proposal in the White House's most explicit terms yet.

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The conservative grassroots is pushing lawmakers to vote against the Senate's reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which has 62 cosponsors and is slated for a final vote early this week.

Heritage Action and FreedomWorks, two well-financed right wing activist groups, are lobbying to scuttle the reauthorization. In short, they lament the expanded provisions, which beefs up funding for local law enforcement to prosecute domestic abusers while expanding coverage to gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans. They claim VAWA hasn't proved to be effective and argue that federal funding for law enforcement is both redundant and unconstitutional.

In a blog post, FreedomWorks criticized the cost of the legislation -- $660 million -- and pointed out that domestic violence is "already illegal in all 50 states." It added: "Supporters of the VAWA portray women as helpless victims - this is the kind of attitude that is setting women back."

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Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Monday responded fiercely to the conservative advocacy groups who are whipping against the Violence Against Women Act by arguing that the Senate's reauthorization would unncessarily expand the scope of the law and treat men unfairly.

"It is really quite insulting to the millions of women who would be covered under this new legislation," Murray told TPM in a statement. "Are these out-of-touch, extremist groups prepared to tell Native American women that the new provisions aimed at protecting them are ‘unnecessary’ -- when one in three of them will be raped in their lifetime? These women live on lands that are hours away from the nearest federal prosecutors. And for non-tribal members on these lands who perpetrate violent crimes against the women living there, this equates to nothing short of a safe-haven. Free from tribal jurisdiction, these are places where they can repeatedly commit horrific acts without being afraid of being brought to justice."

"VAWA has attained such broad support because it’s worked," she said. "It has never been a political football and we cannot start picking winners and losers on who gets these critical protections."

A new alliance between conservative pro-reform constituencies including religious leaders, law enforcement and the business community adds momentum to the push for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.

On a conference call Monday, leaders from the Texas Association of Business, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and the National Immigration Forum joined former top law enforcement officials to announce the alliance, calling it "Bibles, Badges and Business."

"For the last two years, conservative leaders who hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business have gathered in the mountain west, the midwest, the southeast and our nation's capital to forge a new consensus on immigrants in America, moving our nation closer to a 21th century immigration process," Ali Noorani, the executive director of National Immigration Forum, told reporters. "And across the country and on the hill, these conversations are turning into action."

He said "Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform" will not formally take positions on legislation but will espouse principles including creating a "road to lawful status and citizenship" for undocumented immigrants, respecting those who are waiting in line to become immigrants, modernizing laws for future flow of employment- and family-based immigration and recognizing the need for border security.

The Senate is poised to pass the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization early this week, with a final vote expected Monday afternoon or Tuesday.

The legislation enjoys broad bipartisan support in the Senate; it has 62 sponsors and moved forward last week by a vote of 85-8. The Senate voted 34-65 to reject an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to replace the measure with a scaled-back reauthorization.

After voting on additional amendments, including one by VAWA chief sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to beef up resources to combat human trafficking, the legislation is expected to pass with expanded provisions to extend coverage to gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans who suffer from domestic abuse.

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Stark divisions within the upper echelons of Mississippi's government have all but sunk the prospects for a state-run insurance exchange that would give residents greater power over their health care system.

The core division lies between Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who took office one year ago and is determined to stonewall the implementation of Obamacare, and state Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney, who believes that building an exchange as encouraged by the health care law is the right way to go.

That division is now on display: the Obama administration this week rejected Mississippi's application for a state-based exchange, filed by Chaney against his governor's wishes -- and blamed Bryant.

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Senate Democrats have scheduled the vote on final passage of the Violence Against Women Act for early next week -- either late Monday or Tuesday, according to Majority Whip Dick Durbin's (D-IL) office.

The vote on the completed bill was expected to happen by the end of this week, but additional time needed for debate and amendments, and the fact that the chamber is not in session Friday, led to it being postponed.

The measure enjoys strong bipartisan support.

A battle between Karl Rove and the far right is the latest front in a growing civil war for the heart and soul of the Republican Party and clarifies the contours of the struggle.

On one side are the establishment Republicans, who recognize the changing face of the American electorate and want their party to win elections in the future. In this battle, they are represented by Rove and his new Conservative Victory Project, unveiled this week, which is targeting unelectable (read: extremely conservative) candidates in Republican Senate primaries.

"There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected," Steven Law, who will run Rove's new effort, told the New York Times. "We don't view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win." Law is also president of the Rove-backed American Crossroads and CrossroadsGPS.

On the other side are the ultraconservatives, who believe the road to success involves full-fledged, uncompromising dedication to their tea party principles. These are right-wing groups like FreedomWorks and GOP Senate hopefuls like Reps. Paul Broun (GA) and Steve King (IA), who are the types of far-right candidates Rove is expected to target.

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After an outcry from Democrats, Michigan's Republican House speaker and governor on Thursday ruled out legislation introduced by Republicans requiring women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound prior to having an abortion.

"While I want to be sure women have access to the best technology available, I have absolutely no interest in forcing a woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound," House Speaker Jase Bolger said in a statement. "This House of Representatives will not pass a bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds."

Gov. Rick Snyder's office denounced the bill after the Speaker nixed it.

"Gov. Snyder is not at all supportive of this legislation and has zero interest in seeing it come to his desk," his spokeswoman Sara Wurfel told TPM.

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Michigan's House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) on Thursday categorically ruled out legislation introduced by his Republican colleagues to mandate transvaginal ultrasounds for women before having an abortion.

"While I want to be sure women have access to the best technology available, I have absolutely no interest in forcing a woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound," Bolger said in a statement. "This House of Representatives will not pass a bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds."

Gov. Rick Snyder's (R) office has declined to return multiple requests for comments.

Bolger added: "We must increase the value of life in Michigan because all life is valuable and no life is disposable. No matter a person's beliefs regarding abortions, I hope we in Michigan can come together on goals we can all agree on. Specifically, I hope we can improve pre-natal care. I hope we can increase support for women who may need it if they become unexpectedly pregnant. I hope we can improve and increase adoptions in Michigan. I hope that a woman who becomes unexpectedly pregnant and cannot keep her baby knows she will receive all the support she needs to have that baby and that a Michigan family will be able to quickly adopt, love and raise the child."

 

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