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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

A dominant theme of the national political discourse has been the crushing spending spree the U.S. has ostensibly embarked on during the Obama presidency. That argument, ignited by Republicans and picked up by many elite opinion makers, has infused the national dialogue and shaped the public debate in nearly every major budget battle of the last thee years.

But the numbers tell a different story.

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An election-year effort by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to advance a scaled-back DREAM Act is drawing praise from Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), the Democrats' most vocal crusader for comprehensive immigration reform.

"The problem [on immigration reform] has never been the Democratic Party. The problem has been Republican votes," Gutiérrez told TPM in an interview Tuesday. "And Rubio is the first light reaching out of the tunnel. So I wish him success."

Rubio has yet to release his bill, but he says it will offer legal residency to some undocumented immigrants raised in the United States and give them the opportunity to seek citizenship through the regular channels.

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In the escalating battle over how to avoid a looming economic contraction next year, Democratic leaders are continuing to rebuff Republican efforts to avert scheduled tax hikes and military spending cuts without bringing new tax revenues into the deficit-reduction mix.

"Once Republicans are willing to abandon their commitment to more tax breaks for multi-millionaires and special interests and their plans to end Medicare, I am confident that we can reach an agreement," wrote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in a Tuesday letter to Republicans. "Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans' blind adherence to Tea Party extremism is making it impossible to reach this sort of balanced agreement before the election."

Reid's letter came in response to a letter from 41 Senate Republicans demanding action while continuing to reject the prospect of asking wealthier Americans to contribute more to debt-reduction.

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Sensing a political opportunity, Democrats are working to back Republicans into a corner on legislation designed to punish Americans who renounce their citizenship to avoid paying taxes, as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin did.

The legislation, unveiled last Thursday by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bob Casey (D-PA), provoked over-the-top conservative pushback, with Grover Norquist and the Wall Street Journal editorial board comparing it to the actions of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), conscious of not being portrayed as defending jet-setting elites who seek to avoid their legal obligations, said Sunday that Saverin's actions were "outrageous." He told ABC's "This Week" he may support the Schumer-Casey bill, but hedged that he wasn't sure it's necessary.

Now, with an apparent rift emerging, Democrats are twisting the knife.

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The University of Notre Dame on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its requirement that employer-provided insurance plans include birth control coverage.

The issue was the subject of a heated firestorm earlier this year. The administration tweaked its rule to accommodate religious nonprofits like Catholic universities and hospitals. Churches are exempt. Republicans continued to demand that Obama reverse the rule entirely but backed down after receiving immense blowback.

"Let me say very clearly what this lawsuit is not about: it is not about preventing women from having access to contraception, nor even about preventing the Government from providing such services," John Jenkins, the university's president, said in a statement. "We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the Government not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings."

President Obama delivered the 2009 commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame. Others institutions such as Ave Maria University, as well as several Republican-led states, have also sued to block the mandate.

Read the UND lawsuit below.

University Of Notre Dame Federal Complaint Against Dept Of Health And Human Services

Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) spokesman Brian Fallon hit back at Grover Norquist after the anti-tax activist compared the senator's anti-tax-dodging bill to the actions of Nazis.

"When even Speaker Boehner feels free to openly disagree with Grover Norquist, it is official that literally no one cares what Norquist thinks on this issue," Fallon told TPM in an email Monday.

Speaker John Boehner hedged Sunday and said he may support the so-called Ex-PATRIOT Act.

New Democratic-led legislation aimed at penalizing those who would renounce their U.S. citizenship to dodge taxes has provoked fiery criticism from influential conservatives and is putting Republican leaders in a politically precarious situation.

Inspired by the actions of Eduardo Saverin, the Facebook co-founder who renounced his citizenship ahead of a large tax payment associated with the company's much-ballyhooed initial public offering, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bob Casey (D-PA) unveiled a bill Thursday to force such tax-dodgers to pay a 30 percent tax rate on all future U.S. investments and ban them from ever setting foot in the country again.

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist compared it to the actions of Nazi Germany.

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Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (IL), the Democrats' leading crusader for immigration reform, says he would support Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) scaled-back version of the DREAM Act.

“If he’s got a proposal, I will work with Rubio, I’m telling you that," Gutiérrez told Fox News Latino. "I think he's sincere, I think he's genuine."

“Even if it’s watered down and does not grant citizenship, if it stops the deportations and doesn’t exclude them from becoming citizens, doesn’t stop that from happening, [then] yes [I would support Rubio's bill],” the congressman added.

The bill is a longshot at best, particularly in the Republican-led House. Rubio, who has yet to release the legislation, has been angling to blame the White House for its likely failure.

Watch the video, via Fox News Latino:

 

Just hours after Cory Booker undermined one of President Obama's key campaign messages Sunday, the Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J., reversed his criticism.

On NBC's "Meet The Press," Booker attacked Obama's recent ad criticizing Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital and equated it to bashing the president over Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

"I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity," Booker said. "If you look at the totality of Bain Capital's record, it -- they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me -- I'm very uncomfortable."

"This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides," he added. "Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop."

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Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) disputed the White House's characterization that the GOP senator's version of President Obama's budget that failed 99-0 was not an accurate reflection of his proposal.

After TPM's story, Sessions' office emailed the following response Friday from communications director Stephen Miller:

"The White House is understandably desperate to minimize the astonishing repudiation of the President’s financial vision. What the Senate voted on this week was not an interpretation of the President’s budget; it was the President’s budget, introduced in the required form of a budget resolution and in keeping with the Congressional Budget Act. An open offer was extended to Senate Democrats to change anything they felt was not right in what we presented—no takers. Is the White House really suggesting that their budget has support in the Senate, just in some different form? Have they forgotten that the reason it fell on the GOP to offer up the President’s budget is because both House and Senate Democrats were unwilling to do so in the first place? If the White House believed their own spin, then they would have sent up a version of their budget in legislative form months ago and asked Leader Reid to put it to vote. They didn’t and they won’t, so we did."

The White House argues that Sessions' version of the budget lacks the specificity needed to ensure appropriators don't meet the targets in harmful ways.

But Sessions' office notes that prior to the vote, the senator offered his colleagues the chance to correct "any aspect of the budget" they thought was inaccurate. Democratic senators didn't take up his offer, nor did they put forth an alternative they believe is more accurate, which suggests they weren't interested in voting on the proposal.

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