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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

Flanked by his leadership team at a Thursday press conference, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) dodged two questions about Mitt Romney's controversial remarks about the poor and middle class, and beseeched the "hand-wringing" political media to stop suggesting the election is slipping away from Republicans.

"This election is about jobs," he said, in response to his first two questions, which were about Romney's recently unearthed remarks from a fundraiser deriding 47 percent of American voters as freeloaders who won't take responsibility for their lives. "Everybody's going to try to make this election about everything other than what it is."

Asked if he still believes the election is a referendum on President Obama, the speaker launched into an extended critique of the press' portrayal of the contest.

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Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan gave his fellow House Republicans a pep talk during a closed-door meeting Thursday, seeking to calm their nerves amid recent speculation that the presidential race is slipping away from Mitt Romney.

The House budget chief vowed that the efforts he and his Republican have undertaken since taking over the chamber last year will elevate the Romney-Ryan ticket in the remaining weeks. But the consequence of all those controversial votes, Ryan suggested to GOP members, is that the election will be a choice between two different visions for the country. That's a far cry from the referendum on President Obama's leadership that Republicans had hoped to make the election about.

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Voters in Ohio and Iowa trust President Obama over Mitt Romney on handling the issue of welfare, according to new polls commissioned by the pro-Obama group Priorities USA Action and shared with TPM.

The likely voters surveyed were asked, "Please tell me who you think would be better on that issue -- Mitt Romney or Barack Obama."

The Ohio poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group, found voters prefer Obama to Romney by a 43-35 point margin.

The Iowa poll, conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang, found voters trust Obama over Romney by a 41-34 percent margin.

The surveys come just ahead of a Republican-led House vote Thursday to block the Obama administration from letting states waive the welfare reform law's work requirements if they develop alternate ways to help recipients find jobs. Mitt Romney has hammered the president's move on the campaign trail, accusing him -- inaccurately -- of gutting the essence of the law.

Senate Republican leaders fled their weekly press conference after delivering prepared remarks Wednesday without taking a single question from reporters eagerly seeking their thoughts on their presidential nominee's newly unearthed remarks dismissing nearly half of American voters.

Although some of the leadership members addressed journalists in separate huddles as they walked away, the unusual display is symptomatic of the party's nervousness over Mitt Romney's comments from a private fundraiser deriding the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes.

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It's too early to tell how Mitt Romney's taped remarks at a fundraiser will affect voters on Election Day, but Democrats in tough House races are bullish.

"It's going to help us in every swing district in America," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters Wednesday, saying the Republican nominee's remark "shows disdain" for nearly half the country.

Polling is scant because the footage -- in which Romney told wealthy donors that the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes are "dependent upon government" and refuse to take responsibility for their lives -- was only released Monday.

Numerous Democrats in close races capitalized and sought to tie their Republican opponents to Romney's remarks and paint the GOP as contemptuous of the middle class. Even as the conservative base embraces Romney's comments, Republicans candidates are keeping their distance.

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While conservative activists are circling their wagons around Mitt Romney and encouraging him to stand by his claim that the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes are essentially mooching off the government, prominent policy voices on the right are dismayed by his comments -- both because they're inaccurate, and because they cut against fundamental conservative causes.

Romney argued that the 47 percent -- of which three-fifths pay payroll taxes and one-fifth are seniors -- represent President Obama's core base. "The story is complicated, and it doesn't line up well with the dependency story Romney seemed to have in mind," wrote Reiham Salam at National Review. "As an explanation for electoral trends, though, this theory doesn't hold up," wrote Ramesh Ponnuru at Bloomberg View, pointing out that many low-income Americans vote Republican.

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Under fire from Mitt Romney for being too lenient with China's questionable trade practices, President Obama issued a trade complaint to the World Trade Organization on Monday against the country's practice of subsidizing cars and auto parts for export.

The development, and Romney's reaction to it, perpetuate a theme that has characterized the campaign for months. Each candidate has scorched the other for supporting trade policies that harm American workers, though substantively it's hard to find daylight between the two on how they intend to deal with China tilting the playing field.

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There is no clear correlation between tax cuts for high earners and economic growth, according to a new study by Congress' nonpartisan policy analyst.

"There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth," concluded a report by the Congressional Research Service released Friday. "Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth."

The findings are pertinent to a central debate in the presidential election, wherein President Obama is pushing to end the Bush-era tax cuts on high incomes, while his Republican challenger Mitt Romney insists on cutting rates across the board 20 percent below current policy. Democrats contrast the tax hikes of the 1990s and ensuing economic growth with the tax cuts of the 2000s and relatively meager gains that followed. Republicans, meanwhile, argue that the recovery is weak because the economy remains shackled by regulatory and tax burdens.

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Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that the United States is not "impotent" -- but that it's also not powerless as violent anti-U.S. protests transpire in the Middle East.

Her exchange with ABC's Jake Tapper:

TAPPER:  Look at this map, if you would.  There have been protests around the world over the last several days.  And President Obama pledged to repair America's relationships with the Muslim world.  Why does the U.S. seem so impotent?  And why is the U.S. even less popular today in some of these Muslim and Arab countries than it was four years ago?

RICE:  Jake, we're not impotent.  We're not even less popular, to challenge that assessment.  I don't know on what basis you make that judgment.  But let me -- let me point...

TAPPER:  It just seems that the U.S. government is powerless as this -- as this maelstrom erupts.

RICE:  It's actually the opposite.  First of all, let's be clear about what transpired here.  What happened this week in Cairo, in Benghazi, in many other parts of the region... 

TAPPER:  Tunisia, Khartoum...

RICE:  ... was a result -- a direct result of a heinous and offensive video that was widely disseminated, that the U.S. government had nothing to do with, which we have made clear is reprehensible and disgusting.  We have also been very clear in saying that there is no excuse for violence, there is -- that we have condemned it in the strongest possible terms.

But let's look at what's happened.  It's quite the opposite of being impotent.  We have worked with the governments in Egypt.  President Obama picked up the phone and talked to President Morsi in Egypt.  And as soon as he did that, the security provided to our personnel in our embassies dramatically increased. 

Chief Justice John Roberts switched sides mid-way through deliberations to uphold 'Obamacare' after failing to find middle ground with conservatives, and in the process infuriated Justice Antonin Scalia, a new book concludes.

Excerpts from longtime court watcher Jeffrey Toobin's "The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court" leaked to Politico's Playbook jibe with earlier reports that the chief justice changed his mind as the ruling neared and became the deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

Toobin writes: "[T]he tax argument stayed with the chief justice. In April and May, it started to become apparent to the other justices that Roberts was going 'wobbly' in his determination to overturn the law. Voters are never final until the decision are announced in open court. Votes at conference are by definition tentative. It is well within the bounds of acceptable behavior for justices to change their minds once opinions being circulating. Still, that rarely happens. But now, it appeared it was happening with Roberts -- in the most important case of his tenure as chief justice."

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