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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

A budget resolution based on the work of President Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission went down in flames Wednesday night in the House.

A version of the Bowles-Simpson budget -- the commission never found the majority needed to report out an official one -- was defeated 38-382. The measure was offered by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Steve LaTourette (R-OH) in the run-up to Thursday's vote on the GOP's updated blueprint written by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.

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House Republicans muscled through their 90-day highway and transportation reauthorization bill on a mostly party-line vote Thursday.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which recently passed a strongly bipartisan two-year reauthorization measure. Democrats now have to decide whether to swallow the House's short-term bill before the programs lapse this weekend.

Erwin Chemerinsky, a dean of UC Irvine School of Law, weighed in after the final Supreme Court oral arguments Wednesday on the health care reform law.

He wrote in an email to TPM:

I think that it is impossible from the oral arguments to predict what the Court will do. It seems that the Court is not likely to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds and not likely to strike down the whole statute. But as to the constitutionality of the individual mandate, Justice Kennedy asked hard questions of both sides and it is impossible to predict his vote based on these questions. I have predicted from the outset that the Court would uphold the individual mandate and I continue to believe this will be the result.

Lost in the frenzy surrounding the Supreme Court health care arguments this week is an important development on Capitol Hill: House Republicans are poised to vote Thursday to drastically transform Medicare and spark another potential government shutdown battle.

The new budget plan by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) faces a floor vote Thursday -- it's a tweaked version of last year's blueprint that was relentlessly attacked by Democrats for "ending Medicare as we know it" in order to pay for large tax cuts for high-income earners. This year's blueprint also replaces Medicare with a subsidized insurance exchange, but keeps traditional Medicare alive as a public option among private plans that seniors can buy into.

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With potentially millions of jobs on the line, House Republicans are advancing their last, best option Thursday to prevent scores of transportation and infrastructure programs from expiring this weekend.

Despite a strong push by GOP leadership, rank-and-file House Republicans have resisted the call to back a bipartisan transportation bill, including one that passed the Senate overwhelmingly two weeks ago.

To save face without sparking the ire of caucus conservatives, House Speaker John Boehner will instead punt, and try to pass a three-month extension of existing programs. But even that isn't a sure bet to win 218 Republican votes.

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A handful of Senate Democrats sought to assure doubtful liberals that the Supreme Court justices aren't ready to strike down their crowning achievement, standing before cameras and mics Wednesday in front of the court. One warned that doing so would ruin the court's credibility.

"This court would not only have to stretch, it would have to abandon and completely overrule a lot of modern precedent, which would do grave damage to this court, in its credibility and power," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), a former attorney general of Connecticut. "The court commands no armies, it has no money; it depends for its power on its credibility. The only reason people obey it is because it has that credibility. And the court risks grave damage if it strikes down a statute of this magnitude and importance, and stretches so dramatically and drastically to do it."

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Conservatives emerged from Tuesday arguments with an air of confidence that the Supreme Court will hand them a victory and strike down the heart of "Obamacare," emboldened by the fact that swing Justices John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy sounded far from convinced that the law's requirement to buy insurance passes constitutional muster.

Forecasting the individual mandate's "imminent demise," The Washington Examiner's Conn Carroll declared Tuesday, "Today's oral argument makes it sound like the five conservative justice will find that there are limits to congressional power." Other conservatives were equally hopeful.

They might be getting punk'd.

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Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said Wednesday that the comparisons between the Affordable Care Act and eating broccoli -- which Justice Antonin Scalia invoked Tuesday -- don't hold up.

"It isn't about eating broccoli, folks," Kerry told reporters. "There's no other economic commodity in the entire marketplace like health care. Like it or not, at some point in our lives, every single person will receive health care."

Standing between the Capitol and in front of the Supreme Court during Wednesday's oral arguments, he made the case for the law's constitutionality.

"Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce is certainly broad enough to encompass the way the law was written," Kerry said. "The Supreme Court has interpreted this power to mean ... if the economic activity being regulated, taken in the aggregate, has a substantial effect on interstate commerce, it's permissible."

The Obama administration's top legal advocate was pilloried Tuesday for offering a less-than-eloquent constitutional defense of the health care reform law's individual mandate -- the provision at the heart of the challenge to "Obamacare." Thankfully for supporters of the law, some of the sharpest legal minds in the country unintentionally articulated his case better than he did -- the justices themselves. Liberal-leaning justices on the court each stepped in at various points to suggest arguments for the mandate's legitimacy.

Here are the four best arguments they made -- or at least hinted at -- that could sway their skeptical colleagues.

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Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA who has been following the health care case, weighed in after Tuesday's oral arguments on the individual mandate.

He writes in an email to TPM:

There were few surprises in the oral argument today. The liberal justices expressed their comfort with the mandate and the conservatives expressed skepticism. Kennedy gave the audience mixed signals, obscuring how he'll rule. The only people who were surprised were the pundits who predicted Scalia's vote would be in play. Instead, Scalia was vigorous in his questioning of the government. When the ACA was passed, I predicted that precedent wouldn't decide this case, and today the Justices didn't seem overly concerned with past decisions.

Winkler's take on how the case will turn out?

It's too close to call.

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