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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

The U.S. embassy in Afghanistan is on lockdown Sunday morning as a series of coordinated attacks have taken place across the nation on government buildings and international facilities, according to multiple reports.

Bloomberg News called it the Taliban's "biggest offensive this year."

A CNN correspondent said on "State of the Union" that all U.S. embassy staff were accounted for as of early Sunday morning ET.

Tornadoes ravaging the Midwest and Plains have killed five people and injured 29 in Oklahoma, and caused serious damage to property, according to The Associated Press.

AP adds:

Oklahoma emergency officials said five people died after a tornado touched down at 12:18 a.m. Sunday in and around the northwest Oklahoma town of Woodward, the high winds damaging homes, toppling trees and downing power lines about 140 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. ..

Storms also were reported in Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska as a wide-ranging storm system lumbered its way across the nation's midsection Saturday and Sunday.

 

A new small-business law spearheaded by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is harming relations between the White House and its labor allies. Unions objected strongly before the legislation was enacted, and several weeks later, they're continuing to air grievances.

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which passed with broad bipartisan support earlier this year, loosens regulations on small-business capital formation. Proponents on Capitol Hill say it will encourage entrepreneurship while a growing number of critics, including worker advocates, worry that it incentivizes fraud and will diminish the government's ability to police bad business practices.

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President Obama's reelection campaign celebrated its No. 1 political foe's signature achievement on its sixth anniversary Thursday. And from the law's standard-bearer, Mitt Romney? Crickets.

That's a sneak peak at how bizarre the politics of health care are shaping up in the general election, which kicked into high gear this week as Rick Santorum cleared Romney's path to challenging Barack Obama for the presidency this November.

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Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) unleashed a stinging attack on House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan in an interview with TPM, describing him as an ideologically driven extremist who doesn't deserve his reputation within the political establishment as a genuine fiscal hawk.

Labeling the House-passed GOP budget a "great scam," Frank cited its military spending hikes from current law levels as evidence that Ryan's primary goal isn't deficit reduction. He also cited Ryan's refusal to specify which tax loopholes he'll close as evidence of trickery.

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Mitt Romney's latest line of attack against President Obama's proposal to make sure millionaires don't pay a lower income tax rate than the middle class plays ironically on a familiar theme. It's hardly a tool to ensure people like Warren Buffett pay their fair share, says his campaign, but rather a sort-of kickback for Buffett himself.

But that's not quite true.

As Obama touted the "Buffett Rule" in a televised speech Wednesday for the second day in a row, Romney's economic policy adviser Kevin Hassett delivered the campaign's response during a morning call with reporters.

"The rule, I think, is also an example of Washington at its worst," Hassett said. "It exempts municipal bond interests from the harsh capital treatment and you might wonder why, given that we're calling it the Buffett Rule -- I think it's no coincidence Berkshire [Hathaway, Buffett's firm] has been a big player in municipal bond markets."

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RNC Chairman Reince Priebus faced aggressive questioning by MSNBC's Thomas Roberts over the "war on women" Democrats are accusing Republicans of waging.

Priebus repeatedly called it a "fiction" and refused to walk back his comments saying the "war on women" is as real as a "war on caterpillars."

"I'm not going to walk back, I'll double down on it," he said. "This war of women is a fiction that the Democrats have created. The real war on women is the war that this president has put forward on the American people, by not following through on his promises. By having women portionately affected by the Obama economy."

Roberts pressed Priebus on GOP-backed policies regarding family planning and abortion that would make it more difficult for women to obtain certain health services, to which he responded, "Our party believes in life for everybody."

Watch highlights from the segment:

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) on Tuesday called out the Paul Ryan budget for making deep cuts to the medical safety net while raising military spending from current projected levels.

He said in a statement: 

The House Republican budget has given too little attention to one central fact: part of what it does is to repudiate last year’s decision to reduce defense spending and it makes up for that by mandating deeper cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. As one of its strongest defenders, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, candidly noted, "Mr. Ryan's budget would cancel the additional defense cuts of $55 billion a year under the sequester and replace them with savings in the entitlements that are the real drivers of long-term debt."

A budget that seeks significant deficit reduction while exempting the swollen military budget from any serious restraint is an ideological document, not a fiscal one.

The Obama administration is in the midst of defending a law that touches on corporate speech and public health -- issues that have been the subject of two of the most explosive Supreme Court cases of the last decade.

The Supreme Court may yet weigh in, but unlike the Citizens United case, in which the court's five conservative justices loosened the reins on corporate spending and political expenditures -- enabling the rise of super PACs -- it would decide this time whether the government can compel cigarette companies to graphically advertise their products' health risks.

The case creates an environment for a perfect storm of partisanship -- a health law enacted by President Obama that challenges corporations' speech. At stake is a 2009 law that authorizes the federal government to place graphic warning labels on cigarette packs in order to discourage people from smoking.

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After a series of public embarrassments, and faced with polling data that suggests the GOP agenda is driving women toward the Democratic Party, Republicans may be tacitly acknowledging that kowtowing to their conservative base in an election year has some ugly ramifications.

But that doesn't mean they're chastened. They're just hoping everyone forgets.

Congressional Republicans abandoned their push to roll back the Obama administration's contraception guarantee for female employees weeks ago. But now they're hoping that they can wipe the crux of what Democrats have termed the GOP "war on women" off the books entirely.

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