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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 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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In his written opinion on a recent case regarding the constitutionality of suspicionless, forced strip searches of inmates, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts pointed at one way he could come down on the side of upholding President Obama's health care law and assuage libertarian fears of federal over-reach, some court-watchers speculate.

The constitutional questions in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington are different than those in the health care case. But experts see a potential connection in the broader philosophical point Roberts made in his concurring opinion.

Last week the Supreme Court held 5-4 that prisons may strip-search inmates, even those who are jailed for minor infractions, arguing that security concerns trump privacy in such an environment. Roberts wrote a short aside emphasizing that the court may later place limits to that power when necessary. The caveat suggests that Roberts is concerned about tarnishing his court's legacy by issuing opinions that reflect poorly on his tenure as chief justice in retrospect. And it highlights the fact that future courts can circumscribe federal powers -- including the one at stake in the fight over "Obamacare."

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Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) said Sunday that he counseled President Obama not to champion the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission recommendations because that would have "automatically" turned House Republicans against them.

On a Fox News Sunday panel, freshman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), a member of the Budget Committee, said the president "totally ignored" the work of Bowles-Simpson and showed "no leadership" on the matter.

"I don't think that's fair," Conrad responded. "Look, he asked me for my advice. I told him look, 'If you embrace this totality of Bowles-Simpson, what will happen is Republicans in the House will automatically be against it. So you need to make the case for why it's necessary, but you need those of us in Congress to work it out.'"

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Police say there may be racial undertones to a shooting in Tulsa, Okla. that left at least three dead and two more injured. Jake England and Alvin Watts, 19 and 32 respectively, were arrested.

NBC News reports:

Police are examining whether the shootings might be a hate crime, as England, 19, had posted racially charged comments on his Facebook page about the two-year anniversary of his father's death, the Tulsa World reported.

England wrote: “Today is two years that my dad has been gone shot by a f------ n----- it's hard not to go off between that and sheran I'm gone in the head.”

Democrats didn't have their message straight on Sunday.

In separate segments on CNN's State of the Union, two top Democrats differed on whether Republicans are waging a "war on women," a central line of attack that Democrats have reaped big political gains for amid the GOP's recent push to limit access to contraception.

DNC chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, pressed on whether it's fair to accuse Republicans of waging a war on women, didn't concede an inch.

"The focus of the Republican Party on turning back the clock for women really is something that's unacceptable and shows how callous and insensitive they are towards women's priorities," she said.

Since 2011, Republicans have pushed various bills that would restrict access to abortion and women's health services. The DNC chairwoman cited those efforts as well as the GOP's opposition to legislation establishing equal pay for women as evidence that the party's policies are antithetical to women's interests.

Later on the same show, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and an influential African-American voice, strongly pushed back on his own party's line of attack.

When Clever, a United Methodist pastor, lit into the GOP's claim that President Obama is anti-religion, social conservative Ralph Reed retorted, "Congressman, is it similarly wrong, then, for Democrats to say that the Republican Party is engaged in a war on women? Is that wrong?"

"Yes, that is wrong. And I've never said it, not one time," Cleaver responded. "I condemn it. If it's a Democrat, if it's my cousin, it's wrong."

"We have got to quit exaggerating our political differences," he said.

Dems, including Obama, have enjoyed a significant boost among women voters in recent polls while hammering the message that Republicans are waging a "war on women." Democrats have so far been able to press that attack without dissent from within, but remarks like Cleaver's could give the GOP an opening to push back.

Police arrested two men Sunday in relation to the Tulsa, Oklahoma shootings that killed three people and injured two others, according to The Associated Press.

AP reports:

Police spokesman Jason Willingham said the two men were arrested at a home just north of Tulsa about 2 a.m. Sunday and were expected to be charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill in the spate of shootings early Friday.

Newt Gingrich released a statement Sunday mourning the death of legendary journalist Mike Wallace.

"Callista and I join our friend Chris Wallace and his family in mourning the passing of his father, Mike Wallace. Mike was a giant in news reporting and analysis. His investigative reporting was legendary, and his participation in 60 Minutes helped created a lasting institution. Mike Wallace's life created a legacy young reporters will study for years to come. The Wallace family is in our prayers this Easter Sunday." 

Sen. Dick Durbin (IL), the No. 2 Democrat, said Sunday that the Senate will hold hearings into the General Services Administration spending scandal.

"We are going to have a hearing as to what actually happened here," Durbin said on NBC's Meet The Press. "It's an absolutely outrageous expenditure of taxpayers' money." He called it "totally unacceptable."

The scandal -- in which government workers spent exorbitantly in Las Vegas on the taxpayer dime -- led to the resignation of the GSA chief and two other officials.

DNC chair and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz doubled down Sunday on the Democrats' accusation that Republicans are waging a "war on women."

"The focus of the Republican Party on turning back the clock for women really is something that's unacceptable and shows how callous and insensitive they are towards women's priorities," she said on CNN's State of the Union.

Wasserman Schultz cited the GOP's anti-abortion push and opposition to various bills such as equal pay for women and access to contraception as evidence that the party's policies are antithetical to women's interests.

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