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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

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) predicted Sunday that he will defeat Gov. Scott Walker (R) in the Wisconsin recall election Tuesday.

"I am going to win it," he said on CNN's State of the Union , pointing to recent polls that suggest the race is neck-and-neck. "And we have literally thousands of people on the streets this weekend. So we are very, very positive."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) on Sunday downplayed the minimal support from President Obama and the national Democratic Party apparatus, when repeatedly asked about it on CNN's State of the Union.

"It should be all about the people in the state of Wisconsin," Barrett said. "This is Wisconsin values versus outside influence, and again, I want to be on the side of Wisconsin values."

Gov. Scott Walker (R), he added, "wants to make this a national race because he wants to be on the national race, because he wants to be on the national stage as the rock star of the far right, as the poster boy of the tea party."

Over the last week, the signals have been abundant that congressional Republicans are pivoting from their total opposition to "Obamacare" toward supporting the more popular chunks of the law.

It's an election-year strategy to mitigate the fallout if the Supreme Court grants them their wish and strikes down the law next month. The House GOP is weighing a replacement plan to reinstate its more popular components, such as guaranteeing coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, letting people under 26 stay on a parent's policy and closing the Medicare "doughnut hole." The idea is also percolating among Senate Republicans.

Publicly at least, numerous GOP leaders are sticking to the anti-Obamacare script. Many Republicans aides and sources close to leadership declined to weigh in, but the rest said discussions have been brewing.

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The general contours of the White House's backroom deal in mid-2009 to win the pharmaceutical industry's support for health care reform were widely reported at the time. But the details remained obscured until Thursday, when a Republican-led investigation revealed the entirety of the negotiations and how the agreement was struck after nearly falling through.

The episode serves as an eye-opening glimpse into legislative sausage-making in Washington -- backroom deals with industry groups are hardly uncommon. It's also indicative of Obama's preference for neutralizing and co-opting the major players on his signature legislation. Republicans are nevertheless highlighting the deal less than six months before Obama's reelection to accuse him of breaking his promise to be open and transparent.

A spate of emails between senior officials at the White House and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) was released Thursday by GOP staff on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, resurrecting a discussion of the agreement that received criticism from progressives and conservatives alike at the time. The White House dismissed the new revelations as part of an election-year Republican witch hunt.

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House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office is pushing back on reports that he told his conference on Thursday morning that he doesn't expect Congress to avert a student loan interest rate hike in July.

"The Speaker told the members that the president wants to fabricate fights on things like student loans because he's out of ideas; he doesn't want to talk about his record or his failed policies. Told them the House has passed a responsible bill, and that we are waiting on Senate Democrats," Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel told TPM after Democrats pounced. "But that if the interest rate lapses because of the Democrats' inaction we can fix it retroactively. He also reiterated what he's said before ... that if there's a solution that can pass both chambers, we're ready to talk about it."

The pushback came in response to reports citing anonymous sources -- from Politico and CNN -- that Boehner privately told House Republicans that it was a "phony" fight and warned them that it was unlikely Congress would be able to prevent Stafford loan interest rates from doubling.

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House Republicans are teeing up a vote Thursday on legislation aimed at criminalizing abortions on the basis of the unborn child's gender.

Opponents take no issue with the goal of the bill but argue its real purpose is to further the broader anti-abortion cause.

"Nobody that I know -- nobody that I've ever talked to -- is for abortions for the purposes of gender selection, period," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters Tuesday at his weekly press briefing. "Having said that, as a practical matter, the proponents of this bill are against abortion. ... It's not a question of the purpose of the abortion. They're against abortion."

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Senate Republicans are echoing the House GOP's shift in favor of some of the more popular "Obamacare" provisions, a sign that the party is uniting behind the strategy ahead of the election.

With a Supreme Court decision looming next month, House Republicans are privately weighing a plan to reinstate three popular elements of the law if it's struck down -- guaranteeing coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, allowing young adults up to 26 years old to remain on a parent's insurance policy, and closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole."

Whether coverage of pre-existing conditions is economically viable for insurers without an individual mandate is a dubious proposition, but practical realities are taking a back seat to election year imperatives. It's not a hard sell to voters: you can have all the popular provisions of health care reform without the unpopular ones.

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On the campaign trail, President Obama has touted recent data that dispels the notion that he has embarked on a spending binge -- and his Republican opponents, citing various fact-checks, are aggressively pushing back.

Part of the pushback, it turns out, inadvertently proves Obama's larger point.

"Federal spending since I took office has risen at the slowest pace of any president in almost 60 years," Obama said last Thursday at a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa. Citing a MarketWatch study, White House spokesman Jay Carney called the notion of an Obama spending spree "BS."

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