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. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) reacted on Twitter to the elementary school shooting in his home state Friday:

Sen. Rand Paul is threatening a long and painful road if Democrats attempt to weaken the filibuster early next month via a rarely used process that allows the majority to change the rules with 51 votes.

In a Politico op-ed Friday, the Kentucky Republican vows to offer up a series of other rule changes in such a scenario, and force Democrats to vote them down.

"Today, I caution the majority leader that I will not simply stand by and witness his destruction of the rights of senators, nor his power grab through clear breaking of Senate rules and precedents. I will fight back," he writes.

Among my many proposed rule changes are:

• Each year’s budget must be balanced.

• A point of order demanding enumerated constitutional authority for any piece of legislation.

• A point of order protecting each one of the amendments in the Bill of Rights. Any senator could, at any time and as a privileged motion, assert that a bill violated one of the first 10 amendments.

• A waiting period of 20 days for each page of legislation.

• A sunset provision on all major new legislation.


When the Supreme Court takes up two major cases on marriage equality next spring, all eyes will be on an ever-important swing vote whom gay rights advocates are optimistic about winning: Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The Reagan-appointed justice has pained liberals on many occasions, most recently this summer when he voted to wipe out the Affordable Care Act. But when it comes to gay rights, Kennedy has written passionately in its favor, spearheading the court's two key rulings for gay equality.

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Retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) told MSNBC on Friday that he believes the Defense of Marriage Act, which he voted for in 1996, is unconstitutional and will be struck down by the Supreme Court next year.

"I think the two circuit courts that have determined that it's not constitutional are probably right. That's my judgment today," he said of the law that prohibits federal recognition of same sex marriage.

"I think the country is ahead of the lawmakers on this," he said. "And I don't know what the Supreme Court will do, but it will not surprise me if they affirm ... I think it's likely that they will [affirm the lower courts' judgment that it's unconstitutional]. And, you know, that's one of those acts that probably should not have been enacted."

"President Clinton supported it and I think, frankly it was done without sufficient consideration of all the factors," he said.

Industrial output grew at a higher-than-expected rate in November and showed signs of recovery in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

Reuters reports:

Industrial production expanded 1.1 percent last month after a revised 0.7 percent fall in October, the Federal Reserve said on Friday.

That was the steepest increase since December 2010. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected output to gain by 0.3 percent last month, after October's previously reported 0.4 percent drop.

President Obama and Speaker John Boehner are scheduled to meet at the White House on Thursday.

A White House official and Boehner spokesman emailed TPM an identical statement: "Around 5pm this evening, Speaker Boehner will meet with the President at the White House."

On Thursday, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service republished an analysis that found no clear relationship between marginal high-end tax cuts and economic growth.

The report, initially published in September, was retracted later that month after top Republican senators complained about it.

The new version (PDF) stands by the larger conclusion:

This analysis finds no conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year reduction in the top statutory tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data conducted for this report suggests the reduction in the top tax rates has had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. It is reasonable to assume that a tax rate change limited to a small group of taxpayers at the top of the income distribution would have a negligible effect on economic growth.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a leading champion of weakening the filibuster, is circulating a memo to colleagues fleshing out how his reform package would work.

The 7-page memo (PDF), provided by his office, confirms details of the proposal that were reported by TPM last week.

It would work like this. If the Senate held a cloture vote to end debate, and a majority of senators voted to end debate, but not 60, the Senate would enter a period of “extended debate.” In short, once the Senate has voted for additional debate, senators who feel that additional debate is necessary would need to make sure that at least one senator is on the floor presenting his or her arguments.

If, at any time during the period of extended debate, no senator were present to speak to the bill, then the presiding officer of the Senate would rule that the period of extended debate is over. The Majority Leader would then schedule a simple majority cloture vote on the bill.

If the simple majority cloture vote were to pass – and in most cases it would since the previous cloture vote already received a simple majority – the normal period of 30 hours of post-cloture debate would proceed. This post-cloture period would be exactly the same as it is now (unless changed by a separate change in a rule).

The senator is ratcheting up pressure on his colleagues to get behind the plan.

The Supreme Court will take up a challenge next spring to California's Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure which amends the state's constitution to hold that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

The outcome could range from requiring all states to accept gay marriage or decreeing such bans constitutional. The justices could also dodge the issue. Here are the different ways the ruling could go.

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New polling data shows overwhelming support for weakening the filibuster in the Senate.

Thousands of voters in 10 red, blue and purple states expressed disappointment with gridlock in the Senate and signaled strong support for the key pieces of Democrats' proposal to change the rules to eliminate silent filibusters and instead require obstructing senators to occupy the floor and speak.

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