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

During the vice presidential debate Thursday, Paul Ryan issued perhaps his most scathing denunciation of President Obama's Medicare provider cuts in the Affordable Care Act -- the same savings that Ryan adopted in his budget blueprints.

"Look what Obamacare does," he said. "Obamacare takes $716 billion from Medicare to spend on Obamacare. Even their own chief actuary at Medicare backs this up."

"They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, turning Medicare into a piggybank for Obamacare. Their own actuary from the administration came to Congress and said one out of six hospitals and nursing homes are going to go out of business as a result of this."

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In the vice presidential debate Thursday night, Paul Ryan confirmed that he still supports Social Security privatization but demurred that the idea of giving younger Americans the option to move their Social Security benefits into private retirement accounts is not part of the Romney-Ryan platform.

The Wisconsin congressman and House Budget Committee chairman talked up the concept when asked about his and Romney's backing of President George W. Bush's failed Social Security privatization plan.

"For younger people," Ryan said. "What we said then and what I've always agreed is, let younger Americans have a voluntary choice of making their money work faster for them within the Social Security system. That's not what Mitt Romney's proposing. We say no changes for anybody 55 and above.

"And then the changes we talk about for younger people like myself is don't increase benefit for the wealthy people as fast as anybody else, slowly raise the retirement age over time," he said. "It wouldn't get to the age of 70 until the year 2103, according to the actuaries."

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pushed back on Paul Ryan's contention Thursday night that his Medicare privatization plan is bipartisan on account of the work Wyden and Ryan did on a similar voucher blueprint late last year.

Wyden wrote on Facebook after the vice presidential debate:

The Vice President is right, Romney/Ryan moved the goal post on Medicare and I strongly oppose their plan because I believe it hurts seniors. The Romney/Ryan plan raises the age of eligibility and repeals the ACA leaving millions of seniors with no health coverage. The Romney/Ryan plan on Medicare pulls the safety net out from under the poorest and most vulnerable seniors, taking away the opportunity for nursing home care from seniors who need it and have no other options.

The Wyden-Ryan white paper strengthened the safety net for these dual eligibles. The Romney/Ryan version shreds it. The republican ticket knows that neither I, nor any other Democrat, would support these policies.

The Romney/Ryan plan on Medicare is further proof that Mitt Romney is singularly unfit to end gridlock and bring bipartisan solutions to Washington.

The House's Republican oversight chief Rep. Darrell Issa clarified Thursday afternoon that despite reports to the contrary, he does not have plans to convene a public hearing questioning the Department of Labor's September jobs figures.

"While Chairman Issa, in response to a question asked yesterday, did state that he believes there are legitimate questions about the Department of Labor's method for calculating unemployment, the Oversight Committee has not announced or decided to hold hearings on the September unemployment report," a spokesperson for Issa told TPM. "Chairman Issa specifically pointed to the frequent revisions that the Department of Labor often makes to its own numbers in questioning whether more can be done to ensure that they accurately reflect the state of our nation's job market. At no point did he say he has made plans to convene a hearing on this subject."

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Mitt Romney is still trying to convince voters that his health care plan, which includes repealing the Affordable Care Act, will protect people with preexisting medical conditions. But experts still say his claims don't match reality.

His latest pitch? An open-enrollment period during which insurance companies would be require to sell coverage to uninsured consumers.

Call it a one-time amnesty for uninsured Americans suffering from illnesses, after which the GOP candidate says he'll strengthen protections for sick people who maintain continuous coverage.

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Supporters of affirmative action in higher education were dealt a tough blow on Wednesday in blockbuster oral arguments before the Supreme Court, according to legal experts. The question now is whether the impact will be narrow, or whether the Court will toss out affirmative action's broader legal underpinnings.

The case, Fisher v. University of Texas, was brought in 2008 by a white woman, Abigail Noel Fisher, who said she was unfairly denied admission to the University of Texas-Austin as a result of its affirmative action program, which guarantees admission to the top 10 percent of each Texas high school's graduating class. The Court is considering whether to simply overturn UT's approach as unconstitutional or to scrap or reshape the broader legal foundation of affirmative action in higher education, the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger.

"I am pretty certain Texas will lose on one theory or another, but I doubt the Court will overrule Grutter," said Brian Fitzpatrick, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Law and former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia.

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In a Tuesday interview with the Des Moines Register, Mitt Romney criticized President Obama for pursuing his own health reform legislation in 2009 rather than backing an existing bipartisan bill -- one that also included the individual mandate to buy insurance.

The Republican nominee made the point while arguing that Obama refused to work in a bipartisan manner on the stimulus and health care reform early in his presidency.

"Senator Bennett of Utah along with Senator Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, put together a proposal -- bipartisan proposal," he told the Des Moines Register. "Brushed aside."

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Seeking to neutralize the Obama campaign's charge that his tax proposal will disproportionately benefit the wealthy, Mitt Romney has subtly changed the way he talks about his plan, in a way that obscures what its impact would be.

Before the general election, Romney consistently argued that he wanted the wealthy to pay the same share of the overall tax burden as they do today. Now, as often as not, he claims he doesn't want to reduce their burden at all.

The two descriptions of his plan have wildly different implications -- and he's effectively using their superficial similarities to hide the real impact his proposal would likely have.

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One in five Americans do not identify as religious, according to a new poll, representing a significant spike over the last five years.

The share of adults who do not claim a religious affiliation has jumped from 15.3 percent in 2007 to 19.6 percent in 2012, according to a study released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

The study found large increases in the number of Americans who label themselves "atheist," "agnostic" and "nothing in particular." The percentage that identifies as Christian has fallen by 5 percent since 2007 while the fraction that claims other faiths rose by 2 percent.

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Arch-conservative Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is indicating his support for a major provision in 'Obamacare' which closes a prescription drug coverage gap for elderly Americans on Medicare.

"I'm a renowned conservative who supported Part D," King told his home state paper The Messenger in a little-noticed interview published late last week. But he said of the so-called doughnut hole, "It will haunt us until it's filled."

The Affordable Care Act gradually fills the doughnut hole, a glitch in the 2003 Part D legislation that spikes seniors' out of pocket costs for prescription drugs -- currently after the first $2,930 and until $4,700 per year (the figures change over time).

King stopped short of pointedly endorsing that part of Obamacare -- he maintains that the entire health care reform law must be repealed -- but clearly championed the principle and took no particular issue with the way the ACA approaches the task, although he is concerned about the cost.

As The Messenger reported: "He added that he wants to fill it, but doesn't know where the needed money will come from. ... He said fixing the Medicare Part D coverage gap is not a reason to keep Obamacare in place. He said he believes that law is too expensive and takes away the individual's freedom to make decisions about their health care."

A spokesperson for King did not immediately return a request to elaborate on his comments, which were highlighted over the weekend in the Huffington Post.

King is in a tough reelection race against Democrat Christie Vilsack, the wife of former Iowa governor and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

While flirtation with supporting a piece of Obamacare is notable in part because of King's fierce, unabashed opposition to the law, it's one of several popular provisions that Republican leaders and even tea party darlings in tough reelection battles have signaled sympathy for this year -- others include covering preexisting conditions and letting young Americans up to 26 remain on a parent's insurance plan.