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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. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sunday accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for his repeated statements over the last week that Mitt Romney has not paid taxes for 10 years.

"I actually like Harry. But what he did on the floor of the Senate is so out of bounds. I think he's lying about his statement -- knowing something about Romney's [taxes]," he said on CNN's "State of the Union." "I think he's created an issue here. I think he's making things up at a time when the country is just about to fall apart."

"And I just can't let that pass. I just cannot believe that the majority leader of the United States Senate would take the floor twice, make accusations that are absolutely unfounded in my view, and quite frankly making things up to divert the campaign away from the real issues."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Sunday that he'd be willing to include new revenue in a deal to avoid the automatic defense cuts known as sequestration -- but by closing loopholes, not hiking tax rates.

"I'm willing to put revenue on the table, but not by raising tax rates," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"Close loopholes -- I know we can find them."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) dodged a question Sunday about whether he would be willing to let taxes go up on all Americans if President Obama is reelected and Congress fails to reach a deal.

"I'm willing to do the Bowles-Simpson plan," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."

He added that it would be "stupid" to let the Bush era high-income tax rates rise to Clinton-era levels.

Top House Republicans aren't wasting time mapping out their ideal plan for comprehensive tax reform and have recently detailed how they would maneuver their legislation through Congress next year if they win the White House and control of both chambers.

The course they've charted is designed to make the right's dream tax bill all but inevitable. It includes strict guidelines to keep tax revenues stay near historic lows and a combination of fast-tracking procedures and enforcement mechanisms to make sure the reforms become law, and quickly.

Here's how the plan would work, according to a well-placed Republican aide.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Thursday called an extension of the high-income Bush tax cuts "a recipe for failure that we've already done" and yielded "record unemployment."

"I know that the candidate of millionaires thinks that that's the only way -- trickle down," she told reporters. "Well, I don't know what's trickling down, but it's not a pleasant experience for the middle class. Instead, money is extracted up."

The Obama administration's birth control mandate took effect Wednesday, granting an estimated 47 million women access to free contraception and a raft of preventive health services.

As of Aug. 1, new or renewing health insurance plans are required to provide birth control to women at no out-of-pocket cost. Houses of worship are exempt and religious nonprofits get a one-year reprieve, as well as the option to pass the cost to the insurance company.

The administration established the much-ballyhooed rule, authorized under the Affordable Care Act and drawing upon recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, on the grounds that improved access to preventive health services prevents illnesses and saves money.

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Since taking over the House, GOP conservatives have routinely used must-pass bills as a vehicle to achieve policy goals. But despite spending months charging toward another government shutdown threat when funding expires on Sept. 30, right-wing members now appear to be willing to temporarily accept the status quo in order to protect the party's hopes on Election Day.

A tentative deal announced Tuesday by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would fund the government for six months at levels under existing law. A vote is slated for September.

"There was a drive inside conservatives who wanted six months instead of three months," said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who has close ties to the GOP's right flank. "I don't think there was ever a debate whether we'd get to a [continuing resolution]."

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Congressional leaders on Tuesday announced an agreement to avoid a government shutdown weeks before Election Day, that will fund the government for six months at agreed upon levels when funding expires on Oct. 1.

But the bill still needs to be written and passed by both chambers in time -- a challenge for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), whose members have been hoping to use it as a vehicle to cut deeply into government programs.

"The Speaker and I and the President have agreed on how we're going to fund the government for the next six months," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). "It will be free of riders. This is very good."

The vote is slated for after the August recess. The funding level is poised to be $1.047 trillion, as set in the bipartisan debt limit law last August.

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In a sign that anti-spending conservatives may fall in line on the deal struck Tuesday to fund the government through the election and avert a shutdown, the right-wing Club For Growth signaled it won't fight the stopgap measure.

The real battle, the group's spokesman said in an email, will come after the election.

“There's not much to like about a continuing resolution that funds ObamaCare, after Republicans promised they wouldn't, and spends more than the Ryan budget. It’s a given that Congress wants to avoid hard work before the election – the real question is whether they’ll do the hard work after the election," Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller told TPM.

White House spokesman Jay Carney issued a statement Tuesday afternoon commending the tentative deal struck between congressional leaders to avoid a government shutdown before the election.

The agreement reached by House and Senate leadership to fund the government through the first quarter of 2013 is a welcome development, and we are encouraged that both sides have agreed to resolve this issue without delay. The President has made clear that it is essential that the legislation to fund the government adheres to the funding levels agreed to by both parties last year, and not include ideological or extraneous policy riders. The President will work with leaders in both parties to sign a bill that accomplishes these goals.

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