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

Retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that the American public ought to do some "self-criticism" if they dislike the results of their electoral choices.

"People act as if we're in a bubble and we just were self-generated," he said. "If the public doesn't like the result, they should do a little self-criticism. ... At any given time America is governed by the results of an election."

He appeared alongside retiring Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

He offered one way to help prevent gridlock: "Everybody should sign a pledge never to sign a pledge."

On Wednesday afternoon, the White House shot down Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) call for chopping Obamacare in upcoming debt reduction negotiations. Indeed, neither party expects the major pieces of the law to suffer in any deal. But various smaller items will be part of the discussions as the two parties look for savings in the federal budget.

Democrats aren't ruling out the prospect of cuts to parts of the law, as long as they don't weaken its overarching goals -- and Republicans will push hard for them. Even minor cuts to the law's spending would earn GOP lawmakers political points among their conservative constituents, something that'll be valuable if they have to swallow tax increases.

Here are the three pieces of the Affordable Care Act that Republicans believe they have the best chance of securing cuts to, GOP sources say.

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In a new op-ed for the Cincinnati Enquirer, House Speaker John Boehner argues that the Affordable Care Act should be on the table for cuts in a deficit reduction deal.

He writes:

The president’s health care law adds a massive, expensive, unworkable government program at a time when our national debt already exceeds the size of our country’s entire economy. We can’t afford it, and we can’t afford to leave it intact. That’s why I’ve been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation’s massive debt challenge.

The Ohio Republican also promises to use his House majority to go after Obamacare through the oversight process, mentioning recent efforts by the Ways and Means Committee to probe whether the administration is using taxpayer funds inappropriately when it comes to the health care law.

Over the past couple of years, I have noted there are essentially three major routes to repeal of the president’s law: the courts, the presidential election process and the congressional oversight process. With two of those three routes having come up short, the third and final one becomes more important than ever.

Vigorous oversight of the health care law by the House can be expected and, in fact, is already under way.

When House Speaker John Boehner declared Obamacare the "law of the land" two days after his party took a drubbing in the election, the real reveal came in what happened next: he walked it back in record speed and re-affirmed his commitment to getting rid of it.

Having failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act at the national level, Republicans are now dedicating their efforts to botching its implementation at the state level. And having failed to invalidate the law at the Supreme Court, they're now seeking alternate legal avenues to weaken its regulations.

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One running theme of deficit reduction negotiations is that both parties support domestic spending cuts in their opening bids -- Republicans demand them, and Democrats champion them alongside tax increases for high income earners.

Now a coalition of three labor unions -- AFSCME, SEIU and National Education Association -- are launching a six-figure ad buy pressuring swing-state Senate Democrats and targeted House Republicans to oppose spending cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and education -- three items that neither side has taken off the table in talks about defusing a looming austerity bomb.

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The Department of Health and Human Services released draft rules Tuesday regarding the implementation of a critical piece of the Affordable Care Act -- the ban on insurer practice of denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions.

In an advisory, HHS described the rule, which is not yet final:

A proposed rule that, beginning in 2014, prohibits health insurance companies from discriminating against individuals because of a pre-existing or chronic condition.  Under the rule, insurance companies would be allowed to vary premiums within limits, only based on age, tobacco use, family size, and geography.  Health insurance companies would be prohibited from denying coverage to any American because of a pre-existing condition or from charging higher premiums to certain enrollees because of their current or past health problems, gender, occupation, and small employer size or industry. The rule would ensure that people for whom coverage would otherwise be unaffordable, and young adults, have access to a catastrophic coverage plan in the individual market.

HHS also issued draft regulations on the types of "essential health benefits" that insurance plans must include, alongside other insurance market reforms.

"The Affordable Care Act is building a health insurance market that works for consumers," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Thanks to the health care law, no one will be discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition."

Late last week more than a dozen Republican governors declared that they will not build the insurance market exchanges called for by the Affordable Care Act, including prominent names like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Perry of Texas.

On Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma joined them, declaring in a statement that it "does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support and fund a new government program that will ultimately be under the control of the federal government."

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Utah's Republican Gov. Gary Herbert says he's considering whether to build a state-based health insurance exchange under Obamacare or turn it over the the federal government, but wants answers before he makes a final decision.

According to the Deseret News, he wrote in a Monday letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, "Without answers, it will be impossible to determine the best outcome for Utah’s taxpayers, families and small businesses."

The paper reports:

In his letter, the governor lists 10 main questions along with about 20 follow-up questions.

Questions include: "How much will it cost the state to participate in a federal exchange, including the government, taxpayers, and the private sector?" and "What is the process to ensure that a Federal Exchange accurately incorporates all state-specific procedures and laws?"

Having run and lost on their central anti-tax stance, and with an austerity bomb nearing detonation, Republicans are softening their tone on the issue. But what may appear to be a meaningful shift on taxes among GOP leaders is belied by the unchanged policy specifics within the rhetoric.

"For the purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that begins to solve the problem, we're willing to accept new revenue under the right conditions," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in a post-election press conference.

That leaves the impression that Republicans are willing to raise revenue by limiting deductions and loopholes. Correct, but they've always been open to that -- if and only if the new revenue is used to lower tax rates rather than reduce the deficit. Look closer and it's apparent that that stance is still the same.

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