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

House Republicans "are not going to be able to vote for" a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a key GOP voice in the debate said Thursday.

"The people that came here illegally knowingly -- I don't think they should have a path to citizenship," Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), a tea party star and former immigration lawyer, said on NPR. "If you knowingly violated our law, you violated our sovereignty, I think we should normalize your status but we should not give you a pathway to citizenship."

Under Labrador's proposal, which reflects an alternate route sought by House Republicans, undocumented immigrants would receive a visa that allows them to live, work and travel in and out of the United States, but without the right to vote or become a green card holder or citizen.

"Some people are calling it a blue card or a red card," said the conservative Latino congressman. "I think we should treat them with dignity, but we should also be fair to millions of people that are waiting in line, that are trying to do it the right way. ... We have a large majority of the House of Representatives that wants to do something right now."

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Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) has fired his spokesman Phil Hardy for a mistaken tweet on the congressman's account, according to the Idaho Statesman.

The tweet read "Me likey Broke Girls" and was immediately deleted, but remains viewable through an archive of lawmakers' deleted tweets. His office apologized.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) called on House Republicans to drop their objections to the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act and take it up after the upper chamber passes it, which she said will happen by Friday morning.

"I really hope that House Republicans listen now to women and men across the country who say that women, no matter who they are, should be protected from violence," Murray told TPM in an interview.

Now that the Senate legislation has eliminated a procedural hurdle to House passage, she said, "There is no reason for them not to take this bill up and pass it."

House Republican leaders support reauthorizing VAWA but have resisted additional provisions that extend coverage to gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans who suffer from domestic abuse.

"I think they are hearing from a number of their moderate Republican women, particularly after the last election," Murray said. "I think they are looking bad hiding behind not moving a strong bill."

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) told TPM on Thursday that final passage of the Violence Against Women Act is on deck for late afternoon or Friday morning at the latest.

"I feel very confident that we will come out of today with a very strong bipartisan support for a very strong bill just as we have in the past," she said.

The Senate voted 85-8 earlier this week to move forward with the bill.

"Rick Snyder should come out publicly and denounce this extreme, Tea Party bill, which would invade women’s privacy and endanger their health with an unnecessary medical procedure,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said in a statement. "It’s time for Michigan Republicans to stop intruding on a woman’s relationship with her doctor and start focusing on jobs and the economy. Snyder says he wants to move forward from the divisiveness of the lame duck session. He can make progress toward that goal by stating for the record that he will veto this legislation if Lansing Republicans put it ‘on the agenda’ and send it to his desk."

TPM reached out to the governor's office again Thursday but did not immediately get a response.

Michigan Republicans have introduced a bill requiring all women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before obtaining an abortion, a move that rekindles last year's firestorm when other GOP-led states were considering similar measures.

The legislation introduced Tuesday in the state House ensures the "performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus at least two hours before an abortion is performed" and requires her to sign a consent form prior to the abortion. The bill was introduced by state Rep. Joel Johnson (R) and cosponsored by 22 fellow lawmakers.

Johnson was not available for comment Wednesday, but his legislative aide, Ben Frederick, confirmed to TPM that, while the legislation does not specifically mention transvaginal ultrasounds, the bill aims to require women to undergo an ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion.

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Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on Wednesday called on Senate Republicans not to filibuster President Obama's nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which 43 GOP senators have pledged to do unless Democrats agree to weaken the board's authority.

He said in a statement:

“The GOP effort to undermine the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is an attack on America’s families. Predatory mortgages and other tricks and traps of the financial system have devastated too many working families. The CFPB was created, with the support of a supermajority of senators, to take on these egregious abuses and ensure that all Americans are protected from unfair and deceptive practices.

“The senators blocking Cordray must ask themselves a fundamental question. Does financial fairness for working families matter? I think it does.  Financial fairness is essential for successful families. Financial fairness is a family value.

“Richard Cordray is, by Republicans’ own admission, extremely well qualified. He has run the agency superbly.  He should be confirmed without delay.”

Merkley -- who led the charge for reforming the filibuster, which ended with a whimper last month -- accompanied his statement with a tweet.

There's no way in the world House Republicans would agree to raise any new revenue in order to avoid the upcoming automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, a senior GOP lawmaker said Tuesday afternoon.

"I'm all against raising any additional revenue on this. Look, these are written into law," Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip, told TPM between votes. Cole said there are other, preferable ways to make the sequester cuts that he is open to, but new revenue will not be part of the equation.

"We just had additional revenue for the federal government, so I don't see any way in the world the sequester won't happen either as written or renegotiated or reallocated cuts. But I don't see any revenue coming in the picture."

His comments, which echo the hardline position articulated by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently, came shortly after President Obama's televised remarks Tuesday afternoon calling on Congress to "delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months" if it cannot agree to a comprehensive solution by the March 1 deadline.

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) announced Tuesday that his state will turn down the Medicaid expansion, becoming the first governor of a blue state to officially say no to the coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act that the Supreme Court made optional.

"At this time, without serious reforms, it would be financially unsustainable for Pennsylvania taxpayers, and I cannot recommend a dramatic Medicaid expansion," Corbett wrote in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The decision will please conservative advocates who are urging leaders to stonewall Obamacare implementation. But it's a blow to the many thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians who would have received coverage through the program, which extends Medicaid eligibility to Americans up to 133 percent of the poverty line for participating states.

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Tension was palpable on Tuesday at the House's first hearing on immigration reform, held by the Judiciary Committee, as Republican lawmakers sought to explore middle ground between a swift pathway to citizenship that pro-immigration advocates prefer, and the status quo of massive numbers of undocumented people who are depressing working class wages.

Whether Congress can agree on what to do about the roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country has been a sticking point for immigration reform. It's a vexing political dilemma for Republicans in particular, who are caught between a conservative base that opposes an amnesty program and the need to win back Latino voters.

But the Republicans struggled to articulate what their ideal middle ground would be, if not a pathway to eventual citizenship for undocumented people who meet certain criteria.

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