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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

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday accused President Obama of seeking to "imtimidate" and "browbeat" the Supreme Court into upholding his health care reform law.

The senator is capitalizing on conservative pushback against Obama's remarks Monday, in which he argued the Affordable Care Act is backed by longstanding precedent and tacitly warned the court to refrain from "judicial activism."

McConnell's full statement:

"Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare’s unprecedented mandate on the American people, elected leaders have an obligation to protect our system of checks and balances. The President, more than anyone else, has an obligation to uphold the legitimacy of our judicial system. But his remarks on the Court reflect not only an attempt to influence the outcome, but a preview of Democrat attacks to come if they don’t get their way.

"Only someone who would browbeat the Court during the State of the Union, and whose administration stifled speech during the health care debate, would try to intimidate the Court while it's deliberating one of the most consequential cases of our time.  This president's attempt to intimidate the Supreme Court falls well beyond distasteful politics; it demonstrates a fundamental lack of respect for our system of checks and balances."

At a New York event about encouraging more women to run for public office, retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) criticized her party's recent battle over contraception coverage.

From a report by the Huffington Post's Matt Sledge:

Just a few years ago, Snowe recalled, she stood with President Barack Obama as he signed the Fair Pay Act named after Ledbetter. The political debate today "comes to contraceptive coverage," Snowe said.

"You know, it really is surprising, because I feel like it's a retro-debate that took place in the 1950s," Snowe said. "It's sort of back to the future, isn't it? And it is surprising in the 21st century we would be revisiting this issue. And Sandra Fluke should have been commended, not condemned, for her courage in expressing her own views and beliefs before members of Congress."

Republicans have a message on their plan to privatize Medicare: It's bipartisan. Democrats have a counter-message: Hell no, it's not.

As the GOP works to portray Rep. Paul Ryan's blueprint for Medicare as bipartisan, Democrats are working equally hard to keep their fingerprints off it. Dem operatives see the proposal -- which in 10 years would begin phasing out the existing program and replacing it with a subsidized exchange where seniors can shop for plans -- as a huge opportunity in the elections. House Republicans passed the plan last week without a single Democratic vote.

Now, Republicans are pushing to box in Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as a former supporter of the "premium support" concept.

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Today the presidential gloves really come off.

In a Tuesday speech hosted by the Associated Press in Washington, D.C., President Obama will deliver a broadside to the House-passed Republican budget, which calls for upending Medicare and making deep cuts to domestic social programs. Obama will describe it as a dark vision for America and draw a clear contrast with his campaign themes of reducing inequality and asking the wealthy to help pay down the nation's debt.

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House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan took to Twitter to rebuke President Obama ahead of a planned speech Tuesday, in which he plans to pan the House-passed GOP budget as a "Trojan horse" and "thinly-veiled social Darwinism." 

He soon followed up with this:

President Obama will deliver a speech Tuesday on the new House GOP budget, a White House official confirms to TPM. He'll speak at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention in Washington, D.C., as The Hill first reported, in a speech that's expected to draw a contrast between the two parties ahead of the November election.

Former President Bill Clinton said the Supreme Court health care arguments were politicized and described the legal challenge as short on merits, long on politics.

"It was an unusually politicized discussion, I thought," Clinton told MSNBC in a Monday interview. "To me, it's hard to take the constitutional argument seriously, so I think there's a little more politics."

"I don't think it was unconstitutional in any way, shape or form," he added. "Even in the 1790s, George Washington mandated that shipping companies insure their employees, he signed a bill mandating that able-bodied citizens have firearms in their home because they thought the British were coming again, John Adams signed a bill to mandate that individual seamen have hospitalization insurance."

If the Supreme Court strikes down "Obamacare," Republicans claim a huge short-term victory, but they may end up big losers in the long run. The future of the nation's health care system would be thrown into disarray, and conservatives may be forced to swallow a more bitter pill.

The prospect of moving toward a more liberal, government-controlled health care system is fraught with political peril, and therefore far from inevitable, but may wind up being the only way to prevent the demise of the unsustainable, existing system from leaving many more millions without access to health care. Without a mechanism like an individual mandate to cover the uninsured and tackle the free-rider problem, health care costs are set to rise at an unsustainable rate and compel potentially drastic action from Congress.

"Conservatives may find that they weren't careful about what they wished for in opposing 'Obamacare,'" Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA School of Law, told TPM. "The economic, social and political pressure for health care reform aren't going to just disappear. There's a reason every major industrialized country has national health care. If the Supreme Court invalidates the Affordable Care Act, we are likely to see a government takeover of health care in the next decade."

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Rep. Jim Clyburn (SC), the No. 3 House Democrat, said President Obama should consider running against the Supreme Court if they overturn his health care reform law.

"I think the president ought to take a look at what -- in years before, we have seen presidents run against Congress and we've seen presidents run against the Supreme Court. Franklin Roosevelt did it to the Supreme Court, Truman did it to the Congress."

The last time the Supreme Court struck down part of a president's signature legislative achievement was in the 1930s during FDR's New Deal reforms. In response, FDR went after the court with a vengeance and eventually won.

Clyburn said running against the court would be off limits for Congress, but not for a president. He said Obama should take his case to the people and "ask them to give him a mandate for the years going forward."

Brian Fitzpatrick, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School and former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, weighed in after the Supreme Court health care arguments.

He wrote in an email to TPM:

Scalia is a very likely vote against the mandate, and I'd say there is a 65% chance the five conservatives strike it down.

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