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

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press" that the GOP cannot merely represent the "far right wing of the political spectrum" if it wants to remain a viable party into the future.

"I think the Republican Party right now is having an identity problem," he said. "And I'm still a Republican."

"In recent years there's been a significant shift to the right, and we have seen what that shift has produced: two losing presidential campaigns," Powell said. "I think what the Republican Party needs to do now is take a very hard look at itself and understand that the country has changed. The country is changing demographically. And if the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they're going to be in trouble."

"There's also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party," he said. "They still sort of look down on minorities." He pointed to Republican figures issuing racially-tinged slurs at President Obama and the GOP's tolerance of the birther movement.

The former secretary of state said the GOP needs to come up with constructive solutions to problems like health care and climate change.

"I'm a moderate, but I'm still a Republican," Powell said. "And until I voted for Obama twice I voted for seven straight Republican presidents."

Colin Powell said Sunday that Chuck Hagel would be confirmed secretary of defense, offering a ringing endorsement of the decorated war hero and former Republican senator from Nebraska.

The former secretary of state said on NBC's "Meet The Press" that Hagel is "superbly qualified" and "will make a very spirited defense of his positions" when he appears before the Senate.

Powell praised Hagel's "very, very distinguished public service record." He said Hagel "speaks his mind" and "says what he believes and sticks with it" even if it gets him in trouble.

He said the issues raised about Hagel are "important" but that the ex-senator will have an opportunity to address them at his confirmation hearings, and will "do a great job as secretary of defense."

Powell said Hagel is "a good supporter of Israel" but he's "not reluctant to disagree when he thinks disagreement is appropriate." He said being pro-Israel "doesn't mean you have to agree with every single position that the Israeli government takes."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the Sandy Hook shooting caused a "sea change" in the debate over gun control.

"Newtown fundamentally changed things, and the NRA just doesn't get this," he said.

Murphy said lawmakers who would previously never consider gun control are open to it now, naming Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) as an example.

"I would say that the likelihood is that they're not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress," he said on CNN's "State of the Union." He said he also doesn't believe a ban on certain clips could pass either.

Keene's group accused the White House of seeking to undermine the Second Amendment after a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden last week.

On Sunday Keene reiterated: "We're not going to compromise on peoples' rights when there is no evidence that doing so is going to serve a purpose."

He voiced his support for a database of mentally ill people in order to prevent them from buying a gun.

Keene said that it's President Obama and gun control advocate Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) -- not the NRA -- who are "scaring" Americans.

Obamacare has put Republican governors in a pickle.

Ambitious GOP governors in blue and swing states -- including Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Rick Scott of Florida -- have yet to decide whether to accept the law's Medicaid expansion. And they're in a tight squeeze between conservatives demanding they turn it down, on one hand, and the enticing offer of a large sum of federal money on the other.

Republican governors broadly criticized the Medicaid expansion after the Supreme Court made it optional last summer. Christie praised that part of the Court's decision, calling it "extortion" to force states to broaden Medicaid. Scott initially said he'd opt out before later hedging. Walker, Kasich and Snyder expressed concerns but deferred until the election.

Now the election is over, and the Affordable Care Act isn't going anywhere, forcing them to make a tough decision.

Read More →

Barney Frank has endorsed fellow Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) to become the next senator from Massachusetts.

"Ed Markey should be and will be the next senator. Ed and I have worked together in Congress and, before that, in the legislature," Frank said on MSNBC's "The Last Word" Wednesday night. "I would like to think of this as something of a kind of a relay team."

Frank reiterated that he wants to appointed interim senator between John Kerry's anticipated departure to become secretary of state and the special election to fill his seat.

Rick Santorum has launched a new campaign to thwart the confirmation of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense, accusing him of being "anti-Israel."

For his opening salvo, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania and 2012 presidential candidate issued a lengthy statement attacking Hagel.

"I strongly oppose President Obama's nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense because his confirmation would send a dangerous signal to Iran and other radical Islamic elements which would make our country and our allies less secure. President Obama inadvertently whispered his "flexibility" to Russian dictators, and then nominates someone for Secretary of Defense who tipped off the Iranians that he would not use strength to prevent them from obtaining nuclear weapons. I also have concerns over Hagel's disrespect for our strongest ally in the Middle East, Israel.  Time after time, Sen. Hagel has sought to distance the United States from Israel and refused to stop efforts to end terrorist attacks on Israel.

"While I respect Sen. Hagel's service to America, I cannot stand by and support his nomination.  His anti-Israel, pro-Iran mindset makes him uniquely unqualified to serve as our Defense Secretary.

"I opposed the nomination of Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, in 2006, because his position on Iran and radical Islam was weaker than the president that nominated him.  Likewise, President Obama has nominated someone who is weaker on these vital national security issues.  This country cannot afford someone in a key position of advising the president to be even more lenient and passive on the Iranian nuclear threat than President Obama has been to date.

"I understand defeating Hagel's nomination will not be easy, but as we learned with our efforts to defeat the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) treaty, it is a battle worth taking on.  Just last month, we won our fight to stop CRPD, and for the safety and security of our nation, I intend to win the fight to stop the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary." 

Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott has rejected the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. And now he's in hot water for apparently inflating the cost of the expansion to Floridians in order to justify his decision.

The website Health News Florida reported Tuesday that Scott was warned in letters by the state legislature's top economist and budget analyst that his administration's figure -- that the expansion would cost the state $26 billion over 10 years -- was false.

Scott's aide reportedly said, in emails obtained by HNF, that the figure was based on the assumption that the federal government -- which is tasked with paying for the vast majority of each state's Medicaid expansion for the first decade -- would not fulfill its promise.

But after the report was published and caused a stir, including scathing criticism from Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Scott said through a spokeswoman that his Agency for Health Care Administration would consider alternate cost estimates.

"AHCA's report concluded that adding people to Medicaid under the new law would cost Florida $26 billion over 10 years," said Scott's aide Melissa Sellers. "Others have asked AHCA to use different assumptions to calculate different cost estimates. We look forward to reviewing those cost estimates as well."

Castor accused Scott -- a former hospital executive who rose to national prominence in 2009 while campaigning against the ACA -- of deliberately deceiving Floridians.

"Not only did Gov. Scott manufacture flawed cost estimates, but it appears he had been advised that the numbers were flawed and used them anyway," Castor said in a statement. "Florida Legislative Appropriations staff advised the governor's office that the numbers were misleading, but it appears that the governor ignored it. ... Clearly this was not a mistake. Knowing that the numbers are wrong and using them anyway is."

The Scott administration's Medicaid figures were disputed by multiple nonpartisan analyses.

"There are three things the Governor has stressed that remain unchanging in this important discussion about cost estimates," Scott spokeswoman Sellers said. "First, growing government is never free. Second, the number of people in Medicaid would nearly double with the new law (from approximately 3.3 million today to over 6 million). And third, once government grows, it is almost never undone. The fiscal cliff debate in Washington is proof enough of that. Additionally, as the AHCA report points out, federal projections on growing government have a long history of being much lower than actual costs."

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is pushing Massachusetts' governor to appoint retired Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) as the state's interim senator to replace John Kerry.

Frank has said he wants the position when Kerry leaves to become secretary of state, for which he is expected to be easily confirmed.

The liberal advocacy group launched their campaign in an email to supporters and unveiled the website AppointBarneyFrank.com.

"As Elizabeth Warren takes a principled stand against cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, we can't afford to have our other senator be lukewarm, undecided, or uncertain. We need someone who we are 100% confident will fight right alongside her. Barney Frank is that person," PCCC wrote in an email.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico announced Wednesday that she will accept the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, according to The Associated Press.

The move makes her just the second Republican governor to take up the expansion, which makes people within 133 percent of the poverty line eligible for the program and is critical to the law's coverage expansion. Unlike Democratic-governed states, most GOP-led states have rejected the expansion, which the Supreme Court made optional.