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

Conservatives fear that President Obama's wave of attacks on Mitt Romney's business record and tax returns are succeeding at defining the Republican nominee. A key reason this is working, they say, is that Romney has failed to define himself -- and his tax platform offers a compelling window into this phenomenon.

If only Romney emulated the conservative candidate they've long yearned for, they argue, he could insulate himself from attacks on his business record, unreleased tax returns, and anything else Obama might throw his way.

At a glance, these might appear to be unrelated issues. What do Romney's personal finances and private sector career have to do with his social and economic policy bona fides?

Directly, very little. But an obvious tension between Romney's desire to appeal to conservative power players without alienating the middle- and working-class voters he needs to win in November underscores their point. if he can't rebut attacks on his business career and his finances, and he can't tout his key gubernatorial achievement 'Romneycare', he ought to have at least one issue to champion. Yet even when it comes to the right's top issue -- taxes -- Romney's hedging has left him friendless; middle class voters see him championing tax breaks for the wealthy, and conservatives aren't sure he'll follow through on their goals of forcing major cuts to the safety net and other domestic programs, while preventing significant cuts to defense spending.

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Democrats are continuing their all-out assault on Mitt Romney's finances by pushing legislation in the Senate to require candidates for federal office to disclose financial stakes in a foreign tax haven.

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) took to the floor to talk up the Financial Disclosure to Reduce Tax Haven Abuse Act, which was introduced in March. It would force candidates and their spouses to file a disclosure form listing the identity, value and location of finances held in jurisdiction deemed a tax haven by the U.S. treasury, such as the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. Current law does not require such disclosure.

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Senate Democrats have gained important leverage in the battle over taxes, and their unequivocal promise not to extend the expiring Bush tax cuts for the high earners is causing surprised Republicans to sharpen their attacks in defense of their signature issue.

"What's becoming increasingly apparent ... is that our Democratic friends are willing to play Russian Roulette with our economy," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Tuesday. "We think playing Russian Roulette with our economy is a really bad idea."

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House Republicans are blocking Democrats' push for a hearing on the extreme weather that has ravaged the nation, from record heatwaves to severe storms.

The move highlights the the extent to which denial of the scientific consensus on man-made climate change has become Republican orthodoxy, even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.

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There is absolutely no way President Obama or Democrats will permit the Bush-era tax cuts on high incomes to be extended, a party leader declared in a speech Monday.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the No. 4 Democrat and senior budget member, unequivocally promised her party will shoot down GOP efforts to prevent tax rates on incomes above $250,000 to rise by 3.6 percent to Clinton-era levels, even if it means letting rates go up on middle incomes.

"If Republicans won't work with us on a balanced approach, we are not going to get a deal," Murray said in Washington, D.C. at the Brookings Institution. "Because I feel very strongly that we simply cannot allow middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans to bear this burden alone."

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As expected, Senate Republicans on Monday blocked a vote on the DISCLOSE Act, a Democratic-led bill aimed at enhancing transparency in campaign contributions.

The cloture motion went down by a 51-44 margin, falling 9 votes short of the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome the GOP filibuster.

Republicans are pouncing on the Obama administration's directive to grant states more flexibility with implementing welfare reform, accusing the president of "gutting" a central pillar of the 1996 law that ended welfare as an entitlement.

The reality of the president's move is not so simple.

The law, a product of painstaking negotiations between President Clinton and the Gingrich-led Republican Congress, slapped time limits and workforce participation requirements as eligibility criteria for welfare recipients. Despite fierce early protests from progressives, the law went on to be heralded across the spectrum for the reduction in welfare caseloads and poverty that followed, although it hit the poor hard in the wake of the Great Recession.

Last Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would grant states waivers from work requirements under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, in order to let them "test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families."

The move rankled conservative intellectuals, who questioned its legality and lamented that it leaves the law toothless. Top Republicans and their presidential nominee Mitt Romney reflected that anger, accusing Obama of wanting to make people dependent on government handouts.

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