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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

Mitt Romney's support for an individual mandate as part of his signature health care legislation in 2006 has never been in doubt. But emails unearthed between then Massachusetts Governor Romney and top staffers reveal how close he was to the crafting of "Romneycare" and provide details on how he persuaded a skeptical Democratic legislature to adopt the provision.



The emails, obtained by the Wall Street Journal, reveal a politically savvy governor and his team seeking to maneuver a complex bill through the Massachusetts legislature. The bill became the template for President Obama's national health care law, which Romney promises to repeal if elected president.

For team Romney, it was clear from the start that a mandate would be critical.

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The conventional wisdom that President Obama has overseen a dramatic surge in government spending has always been shaky. But it faces perhaps its starkest rebuttal in new figures that reveal the sharpest decline of the last half-century in real federal, state and local spending during this presidency.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the new figures in the Federal Reserve Economic Data arrive just days after a lousy jobs report that has exacerbated fears that the economy may be in worse shape than expected. In recent years, state and local governments have received little federal aid to close their budget shortfalls and have therefore made large spending cuts since Obama's 2009 stimulus expired.

"That saps demand still further aggravating a downturn and inhibiting a recovery," said Chad Stone, chief economist for the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "State fiscal assistance in the 2009 recovery act was largely gone by 2011 and state spending cutbacks continued due to pressures for budget austerity in many states and at the federal level."

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Democrats are ramping up their efforts to put the GOP on the wrong side of women voters by aggressively touting legislation aimed at combating pay disparities. But Republicans are cold to the measure, which makes it unlikely to go anywhere in Congress.

President Obama personally promoted the Paycheck Fairness Act in one of three Democratic-led conference calls Monday. He described the measure as good for women and the economy, and name-checked the demographic tri-fecta he's aiming to secure in the election.

"Women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. It's worse for African American women and Latinas," Obama said. "Over the course of her career a woman with a college degree is going to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars less than a man who is doing the same work."

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Mitt Romney is under fire from conservatives for selecting a man to run his White House transition team who has championed a key element of "Obamacare" and benefited financially from the law -- and the Romney campaign is already working to ease the right's concerns.



Romney has tapped Michael Leavitt, the former Utah governor who was the secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, to lead the team that builds his potential administration. He runs the health care consulting firm Leavitt Partners, which advises states on how to set up the insurance market exchanges in the signature Affordable Care Act.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Leavitt "strenuously backed the core piece of President Barack Obama's health-care law and urged the states to move forward together in adopting health insurance exchanges." And his stance hasn't changed: "We believe that the exchanges are the solution to small business insurance market and that's gotten us sideways with some conservatives," Leavitt's top aide Rich McKeown told Politico.

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President Reagan's policies embraced anti-austerity Keynesian economics to a greater degree than President Obama has, and that's why Obama is in trouble, argues Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.

Appearing Sunday on ABC's "This Week," the New York Times columnist and Princeton professor argued that Reagan was able to reduce unemployment after taking office in part because he grew government jobs -- unlike Obama, who has significantly cut them.

"If you actually look at the actual track record of government spending, government employment, Reagan is the Keynesian and Obama -- mostly because of political constraints, although a little bit of lack of conviction on the part of his own people -- has been the anti-Keynesian," Krugman said. "He's been the one who's been doing what Republicans say is the right answer."

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told the San Francisco Chronicle that Hillary Clinton should run for president in 2016.

Pelosi is upbeat about the prospects for a female president in her lifetime, namely her friend Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Why wouldn't she run? She's a magnificent secretary of state," Pelolsi said when asked about Clinton's prospects in 2016. "She's our shot" that year, Pelosi said.

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on Sunday sought to thread the needle between touting Virginia's improving economic outlook and blaming President Obama for the nation's woes -- and ended up going somewhat off script.

Appearing on CNN's State of the Union, he initially resisted, but host Candy Crowley cornered the Mitt Romney surrogate into giving Obama a little bit of credit for Virginia's lower-than-average unemployment rate.

"Did [the stimulus] help us in the short-run with health care and education and spending to balance the budget? Sure," McDonnell said. "Does it help us in the long-term to really cut the unemployment rate. I'd say no."

Crowley followed up: "So just a tiny bit of credit to the president?"

"Well sure," the governor responded. "I think there are national policies that have had some impact."

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George Zimmerman has surrendered to Florida authorities after his bail was revoked by a judge, his attorney Mark O'Mara announced Sunday afternoon during a televised press conference.

Zimmerman, the man charged with killing teenager Trayvon Martin, was ordered back to jail on Friday and given a Sunday afternoon deadline.

Two and a half years after the landmark Supreme Court ruling that invited a flood of corporate money in U.S. elections, the justice who led the barnstorming dissent says he's increasingly convinced the decision won't stand the test of time.

In a speech at the University of Arkansas, retired Justice John Paul Stevens argued that events since the decision "provide a basis to expect that the Court already has had second thoughts about the breadth of the reasoning" and will likely return to its 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

Stevens noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion did not explicitly address the possibility that the decision could open up the floodgates for foreign entities to bankroll U.S. elections. It's a notion that President Obama warned of in his 2010 State of the Union, prompting Justice Samuel Alito to famously shake his head and mouth "not true."

When the justices carve out that exception, argued Stevens, they will "create a crack in the foundation of the Citizens United majority opinion."

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On ABC's "This Week" Sunday, Paul Krugman and George Will agreed that the gubernatorial recall election on Tuesday is a microcosm of what the nation faces -- but they differed on why.

The roundtable exchange with host George Stephanopoulos:

STEPHANOPOULOS:  We have a couple minutes left before we have to take a break, and I just quickly want to go to you, George Will, because you're calling this recall election in Wisconsin, coming up on Tuesday, Governor Scott Walker, the Republican, facing a recall, the second most important election this year.

WILL:  Yes, because it's a microcosm of what the country faces, an attempt to change the trajectory of the public sector.  You have this extraordinary conflict there where unions are defending their privileged position.  And it does look as though Wisconsin people are going to try and take that back. 

The man running against Scott Walker, Mayor Barrett of Milwaukee, has used the Walker reforms to save $19 million in the Milwaukee budget itself, so he's running against a man whose reforms he's emulating and using.

KRUGMAN:  And yet, of course, Walker is proposing tax cuts that will do much more to hurt the budget than any of these alleged savings.  So this is -- it is a microcosm.  It is -- it's not -- it's not fiscal responsibility versus irresponsibility.  It is a vision of what kind of country you want to have and whether we're going to redistribute income upwards.

WILL:  A more than $3 billion budget that he inherited -- deficit has now become a surplus.

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