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 Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters Thursday that requiring universal background checks is the gun control proposal that's most likely to pass, and called the assault weapons ban "the toughest part" of the package.

"I think the strength of the argument is behind universal background checks," he said. "I think there's also strength in dealing with mental health records -- I think that that is an emerging bipartisan belief. I'd say next in line would be these large clips and cartidges and drums, as to whether there should be some limitation there. I support the assault weapons ban. I think right now it is probably the toughest part of this conversation."

Here's how the Obama administration wants the Obamacare individual mandate to work.

The IRS and Department of Health and Human Services proposed new rules Wednesday pertaining to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that uninsured taxpayers purchase health insurance, and expanded the circumstances under which Americans may receive an exemption from the so-called "individual mandate."

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) went after the Daily Caller on Tuesday afternoon when asked about the conservative website's reports that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) had consorted with underage prostitutes.

"The answer is, I always consider the source, and all anyone here has to look at it is the source where this comes from," Reid told reporters. "It's a source that has brought up a lot of non-issues."

Pressed further, the Democratic leader said, "I've told you how I feel about the source of -- this stuff is really very, very typical for the source."

Menendez has denied the allegations, and although there is not yet evidence to prove wrongdoing on his part, the FBI is reportedly investigating the matter.

Sen. John McCain said Tuesday that the improving situation on the country's southwestern border has been critical to making immigration reform possible -- and that Republicans will demand additional enforcement alongside reform measures such as a pathway to citizenship.

"There has been real improvements in border security," McCain told reporters in the Capitol. Asked if that helps the politics of reform, he said, "Sure. I think it helps a lot." He argued that the situation has considerably improved "over the last five, six years" and called some of the concerns "over-hyped."

The Arizona Republican said the border is not yet secure and said the bipartisan group of eight senators who unveiled the immigration framework Monday "explained it very well that we have to have operational control of the border before we move forward" with legalizing unauthorized immigrants.

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) offered his reaction shortly after President Obama's speech pushing for immigration reform Tuesday.

"No fault," he told a few reporters in the Capitol. "I thought it was upbeat."

But he did find one fault.

"There was a little at the beginning about acting as if we've been dithering all this time," Flake said. "A lot of us have been working on this issue for a long time. And a lot of what he's talking about are things that the Congress has proposed. I like how he used the words 'staple a green card to a diploma.' I've had the STAPLE Act for years -- it's nice to see it!"

After President Obama's televised speech Tuesday afternoon championing immigration reform, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) warned him not to tilt too far leftward.

"There are a lot of ideas about how best to fix our broken immigration system," Boehner aide Brendan Buck said in an email. "Any solution should be a bipartisan one, and we hope the President is careful not to drag the debate to the left and ultimately disrupt the difficult work that is ahead in the House and Senate."

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) responded Tuesday afternoon to conservatives' concerns that comprehensive immigration reform could make millions of newly legal residents eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act and balloon its cost.

"I know that the most expensive part of health care in America today is emergency room care," McCain said in the Capitol, in response to a question from TPM. "The fewer people that have to go to the emergency and can get regular care, the less the cost is. That is a proven fact."

In other words, McCain suggested that providing insurance to currently uninsured individuals will save the government money by forcing them to buy into the system and minimize their need to resort to emergency room care.

Justice Antonin Scalia said Monday evening that the Constitution is not a living document, according to the Dallas Morning News.

“It’s not a living document. It's dead, dead, dead," Scalia said during a guest lecture at Southern Methodist University, while promoting his new book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Text.

The Reagan-appointed jurist, who shared the stage with his co-author Bryan Garner, argued that good jurisprudence is about sidelining one's personal beliefs.

"The judge who always likes the results he reaches is a bad judge," Scalia said.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) announced in a statement Tuesday that has signed on as a cosponsor to the Violence Against Women Act re-authorization, which is on deck for a floor vote by early next week.

He took a direct shot at House Republicans, who have resisted expanding coverage to domestic abuse victims who are gay, illegal immigrants and Native Americans.

"The Violence Against Women Act is a critical bill that helps ensure support services are in place so that victims of domestic violence can protect themselves and their families. Last year, women were used as political pawns by House Republicans, and we can't let that happen again. The Senate should vote again to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act without delay and send a strong, unified message that this country does not tolerate brutality against anyone."

The Senate is fast-tracking its reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to a floor vote expected by next week, two Democratic aides tell TPM.

But House Republican leaders remain silent on how they intend to proceed, which suggests that there has not been a breakthrough since last year, when the bill fell prey to the House GOP's resistance to expand coverage to gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans who have suffered domestic abuse.

A Democratic leadership aide said the legislation, re-introduced last week by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and a bipartisan group of senators, is on tap for a floor vote after the chamber finalizes the confirmation of John Kerry as secretary of state and approves a measure to extend the debt ceiling. The aide said that could happen late this week at the earliest, but more likely early next week.

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