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

As Congress returns from recess this week, House Republicans are set to advance legislation to replace automatic defense spending cuts they agreed to last year with cuts to programs for the poor and working class. The controversial measure is expected to pass the House and die in the Senate, making it largely a political exercise that allows the two parties to contrast the values at the heart of the 2012 election: Should the burden for addressing the country's long-running fiscal challenges fall to struggling people, or to the wealthiest people in the country?

The proposal -- which is an outgrowth of the budget the House GOP overwhelmingly voted for late March -- would cut some $261 billion from health care programs, food stamps, unemployment benefits and child tax credits, among others. It constitutes a violation of the GOP's end of the debt-limit deal, which included painful sacrifices for both parties if the Congress failed to reach a bipartisan deficit-reduction agreement.

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The Obama re-election campaign doesn't appear fazed by attacks from the right about "politicizing" the killing of Osama bin Laden, and on Sunday remained on offense over what it said was one of the president's accomplishments.

"The president hasn't been spiking the ball," said President Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod on ABC's This Week. "This was the one-year anniversary. It's part of his record. And it's certainly a legitimate part of his record to talk about." Axelrod said Obama followed through with his promise that catching the al-Qaeda leader would be a top priority. "And then he ordered a mission that was -- was, frankly, risky, dangerous," he said. "Bob Gates said it was one of the most courageous, one of the gutsiest decisions he's ever seen a president make. And it turned out successfully."

Axelrod was responding to an outside conservative group's ad -- hailed by Karl Rove and widely discussed in the conservative blogosphere -- that utilizes ominous music to sharply attack Obama for taking credit for the killing of Bin Laden on the first anniversary last week. "Heroes don't seek credit," the ad said. "Heroes don't politicize their acts of valor."

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Mitt Romney's diversity of policy positions over the last decade has left conservatives and liberals wondering: What would he actually do as president? Would he return to his former, more moderate self, or would he embrace the ideological fervor of the right as he did during the primary?

According New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, it's hardly a close call: A hypothetical President Romney would do pretty much what House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan tells him to do, because he won't have much of a choice politically. And that, he argues, would be a disaster for the economy.

"Romney -- well, who knows what Romney thinks. Romney's economic advisers are not crazy," Krugman told TPM in an interview. "But I think it's unlikely Romney would have the leeway [to break from the Ryan mold]." The presumptive Republican nominee for president has effusively praised Ryan and, during the primary, attacked Newt Gingrich for criticizing him.

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Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese human rights activist who is under siege by his government, called in to a special committee hearing about his situation Thursday.

According to a translator, Chen told members of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, "Thank all of you for your care and for your love." He said he fears for his and his family's well being and wants to come to the United States.

After the call ended, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said it "absolutely underscores why we're here."

Here is video of the hearing:

Paul Krugman fired back at Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) after the influential Republican laughed off the New York Times columnist's criticisms by saying, "I've always figured I've got three certainties in my life: Death, taxes and attacks from Paul Krugman."

In an exclusive interview following the release of his new book End This Depression Now!, Krugman told TPM, "That's not a substantive remark. I've never attacked him just for nothing in particular. I've gone after his arithmetic and said it doesn't add up at all. And he has never offered a response to that. All he does is make scary noises about the deficit, with mood music, with organ music in the background about how ominous it is, and then propose a plan that would in fact increase the deficit."

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There may not be much President Obama can do to improve the economy between now and the election, but telling a clear story about why it remains weak could mean the difference between victory and defeat this November. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman fears the Obama team is getting that critical narrative wrong.

"They've tied themselves up in knots because they've bought into this notion that it would sound wrong to admit that they haven't been able to do everything that they really should have done," Krugman told TPM in an interview following the release of his new book, "End This Depression Now!" "It's incredible -- they can't quite make up their minds on whether the theme is that Republicans are standing in the way of doing what has to be done, or things are really good and America's back on track. The problem is that you can't perceive both of those lines at the same time."

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Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), the No. 5 House Republican, says he opposes one of the Affordable Care Act's most popular provisions -- a ban on the insurance company practice of discriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions.

"It's a terrible idea," he told Politico.

The remarks reflect a major conundrum for Republicans who, a year and a half after winning back the House, still have no idea how to replace "Obamacare" and are divided over how best to repeal it.

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A spokesman tells TPM that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has seen coverage of UK Parliament's scathing report on phone hacking at News International, and continues to have questions about whether Rupert Murdoch's media empire has engaged in similar conduct in the U.S.

"Senator Rockefeller is just as concerned today as he was last year as to whether Americans were targets of this type of hacking and whether any US laws were broken," said Vince Morris.

The FBI is reportedly investigating the matter, which Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, called for last summer.

In the first two years after "Obamacare" was signed, Medicare reforms in the law saved seniors a total of $3.4 billion in prescription drug costs by bridging a coverage gap, according to official figures.

Over 220,000 beneficiaries have saved an average of $837 in the first three months of 2012, the Medicare agency said Monday. That's on top of $3.2 billion in savings enjoyed by some 5.1 million seniors in 2010 and 2011 thanks to the Affordable Care Act, according to the advisory on the new figures.

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Next up in the Democrats' effort to put Republicans on the wrong side of women's issues: A new bill to combat gender-based pay disparities.

With the general election in full swing, Republicans are working overtime to repair their image with female voters. But Democrats aren't about to let that happen. Now that the Violence Against Women Act is poised to be re-authorized in some form, Dems are planning a push to enhance protections for women who sue for pay discrimination, the kind of measure Republicans have opposed in the past.

Senate Democrats intend to bring up the Paycheck Fairness Act for a vote, a Democratic aide confirms to TPM, as first reported by the New York Times.

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