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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

Senate Democrats have gained important leverage in the battle over taxes, and their unequivocal promise not to extend the expiring Bush tax cuts for the high earners is causing surprised Republicans to sharpen their attacks in defense of their signature issue.

"What's becoming increasingly apparent ... is that our Democratic friends are willing to play Russian Roulette with our economy," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Tuesday. "We think playing Russian Roulette with our economy is a really bad idea."

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House Republicans are blocking Democrats' push for a hearing on the extreme weather that has ravaged the nation, from record heatwaves to severe storms.

The move highlights the the extent to which denial of the scientific consensus on man-made climate change has become Republican orthodoxy, even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.

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There is absolutely no way President Obama or Democrats will permit the Bush-era tax cuts on high incomes to be extended, a party leader declared in a speech Monday.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the No. 4 Democrat and senior budget member, unequivocally promised her party will shoot down GOP efforts to prevent tax rates on incomes above $250,000 to rise by 3.6 percent to Clinton-era levels, even if it means letting rates go up on middle incomes.

"If Republicans won't work with us on a balanced approach, we are not going to get a deal," Murray said in Washington, D.C. at the Brookings Institution. "Because I feel very strongly that we simply cannot allow middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans to bear this burden alone."

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As expected, Senate Republicans on Monday blocked a vote on the DISCLOSE Act, a Democratic-led bill aimed at enhancing transparency in campaign contributions.

The cloture motion went down by a 51-44 margin, falling 9 votes short of the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome the GOP filibuster.

Republicans are pouncing on the Obama administration's directive to grant states more flexibility with implementing welfare reform, accusing the president of "gutting" a central pillar of the 1996 law that ended welfare as an entitlement.



The reality of the president's move is not so simple.

The law, a product of painstaking negotiations between President Clinton and the Gingrich-led Republican Congress, slapped time limits and workforce participation requirements as eligibility criteria for welfare recipients. Despite fierce early protests from progressives, the law went on to be heralded across the spectrum for the reduction in welfare caseloads and poverty that followed, although it hit the poor hard in the wake of the Great Recession.

Last Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would grant states waivers from work requirements under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, in order to let them "test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families."

The move rankled conservative intellectuals, who questioned its legality and lamented that it leaves the law toothless. Top Republicans and their presidential nominee Mitt Romney reflected that anger, accusing Obama of wanting to make people dependent on government handouts.

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President Obama defended his campaign's fierce attacks on Mitt Romney's history with Bain Capital, declining his Republican opponent's demand for an apology.

"No, we will not apologize," Obama said in an interview with WAVY-TV in Portsmouth, Virginia, the AP reports.

"Mr. Romney claims he's Mr. Fix-It for the economy because of his business experience, so I think voters entirely legitimately want to know what is exactly his business experience," he said. "Mr. Romney is now claiming he wasn't there at the time except his filings with the SEC listing says he was the CEO, chairman and president of the company."

President Obama's fierce attacks on Mitt Romney's history with Bain Capital hit a nerve with Karl Rove, who on "Fox News Sunday" simultaneously lashed out at the president and advised him to stop making one of his most explosive allegations: that Romney may be a felon.

Rove, the architect of President George W. Bush's presidential victories, now runs the pro-Republican super PAC American Crossroads, which is spending heavily to help Romney defeat Obama. He took issue with the Obama campaign's suggestion that Romney's SEC disclosure forms -- in which Romney described himself as managing director at Bain beyond 1999, contrary to his claim that he left that year -- could make him guilty of a felony.

"The fact of the matter is that if the president continues to make this charge -- this outrageous charge that his campaign had that Mitt Romney is guilty of felonious activity, could've committed a felony -- that's a big mistake," Rove said, predicting the line of attack won't help Obama with independent voters.

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