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

House Republicans advanced legislation Thursday to block the Obama administration's new welfare waivers policy, providing Mitt Romney more running room to use the issue against President Obama as Election Day nears.

The GOP-led Ways & Means Committee and Education & Workforce Committee cleared the bill on party line votes.

W&M Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) denounced the administrative waivers -- which tweak the 1996 law's work requirements to let states test alternative ways to move people from welfare to work -- as both unwise and unlawful.

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The foreign policy community in Washington, D.C. came together Wednesday to mourn the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed along with three other American diplomatic officials in a fiery attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former top State Department official under Hillary Clinton who is now back at Princeton, effusively praised Stevens and his work.

"He represents the very best of the foreign service: selflessness, dedication to duty, and a passion for the people and countries he worked in," she told TPM. "He died in the service of his country, but also in the service of a free, peaceful, and prosperous Libya. We can honor his life's work by doing everything we can to strengthen the hand of those forces within Libya who seek to stay true to the ideals of the revolution."

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Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ), the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, told reporters Wednesday that a U.S. Embassy statement condemning an anti-Muslim movie -- which was reportedly issued before the attack in Libya that killed four American diplomats -- was akin to blaming a victim for rape.

Here's what Kyl said, as quoted by Roll Call reporter Meredith Shiner:

"It's like the judge telling the woman who got raped, 'You asked for it because of the way you dressed.' OK? That's the same thing. 'Well America, you should be the ones to apologize, you should have known this would happen, you should have done — what I don't know — but it's your fault that it happened.' You know, for a member of our State Department to put out a statement like that, it had to be cleared by somebody. They don't just do that in the spur of the moment."

A spokesman for Kyl did not respond to a request for further comment.


Kyl's aide emails TPM: "Senator Kyl's comments were meant to demonstrate that innocent victims of violence need never apologize to those committing the heinous acts of violence."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Intelligence Committee and top national security voice, criticized Mitt Romney's finger-pointing at President Obama over the attack in Benghazi.

"That's just not true," she told TPM outside her office, when asked about Romney's criticisms.

"I don't think it was [appropriate]," she said. "I don't think that in an emergency situation like this a candidate should second-guess or criticize the president."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday condemned the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and reportedly three other Americans in a speech on the Senate floor.

His statement:

"Our thoughts and sympathies today are with the families of these brave Americans. These attacks remind us of the sacrifices made on a daily basis of foreign service officers, diplomatic security personnel, and our marine security guards. I join my colleagues in strongly condemning the murder of these innocent Americans, and I support employing every available tool at our disposal to ensure the safety of Americans overseas and to hunt down those responsible for these attacks. Yesterday we commemorated the anniversary of the attacks of September the 11th, and today we are reminded that brave Americans serve us every day at the risk of their own lives. We honor the Americans we lost in Libya and we will stand united in our response.

“Among the things we can all agree on in Washington is that attacks on the U.S. and its representatives will be met with resolve, and that America’s presence and defense of our national interests across the globe will not be deterred by the acts of violent extremists.”

House Republicans have dropped their demands to cut spending on domestic programs, for the time being, and instead unveiled bipartisan legislation to keep the government funded through the end of the year at previously-agreed-upon levels.

The legislation, introduced this week by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), represents a shift in the GOP's posture since taking over the House in January 2011. They have routinely used must-pass bills as a vehicle to advance budgetary goals, risking multiple government shutdowns and even a U.S. default.

But with the election less than two months away, Republicans recognize that touching off another showdown would be too politically dangerous. Senate Democrats have insisted for months that Republicans honor funding levels they agreed to in last year's debt limit deal and have made clear they won't budge from those numbers.

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Conservatives are increasingly worried that Mitt Romney's vagueness about tax reform and other policy issues will be his downfall on Election Day.

Romney's sympathizers are raising red flags, after he and his running mate repeatedly declined to provide details during a round of Sunday interviews about the loopholes he'd close to pay for large tax rate cuts.

"If you don't start telling people what you believe -- if you really do, in fact, believe in anything -- and if you don't start telling people, yes, these are the tax exemptions that we're going to get taken care of ... unless you have somebody that's willing to do that, Romney's going to lose," said conservative Joe Scarborough on his MSNBC show Monday. "The Romney people think they can run a Bob Dole campaign, a John McCain campaign ... Republicans do not win by running these types of campaigns."

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held a news conference Sunday calling for tighter regulations on the packaging of concentrated laundry detergent pods amid reports of children eating them after mistaking them for candy.

Schumer conceded that even he wanted to eat one.

"The incidents are skyrocketing," the senator said, joined by medical professionals, according to the New York Daily News. "These pods were supposed to make household chores easier, not tempt our children to swallow harmful chemicals. I saw one on my staffer's desk and I wanted to eat it."

Schumer and medical professionals called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to crack down on the company. He counted 200 cases of children being poisoned by eating the Tide Pods were reported as of May, and said the number spiked to 1,210 in June.

"I don't know why they make them look so delicious," Schumer said.

In a Sunday interview, Mitt Romney spoke out for a popular provision in the Affordable Care Act that guarantees coverage for people with preexisting conditions. But his campaign later clarified that he supports a scaled back version of the policy with much weaker protections.

"I'm not getting rid of all of health care reform. Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I'm going to put in place," the Republican nominee said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "One is to make sure that those with preexisting conditions can get coverage."

His campaign later told TPM he wasn't signaling a shift in policy and was instead referring to his existing stance in favor of protections on preexisting conditions only for those with continuous insurance coverage -- not for first-time or returning buyers.

"He has a comprehensive reform plan; for instance, his own plan will deal with preexisting conditions but not in the same way that Obamacare does," a campaign aide said.

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Mitt Romney went there.

So far, the Republican nominee has mostly -- though not entirely -- steered clear of the culture wars, relentlessly framing the election as a referendum on President Obama's economic policies. But on Saturday, days after the Democratic National Convention ended and a new round of punditry gave the president higher odds of winning re-election, Romney hit the campaign trail with televangelist Pat Robertson and all but accused Obama of turning his back on God.

"That pledge says 'under God.' I will not take God out of our platform," Romney told a roaring crowd in Virginia Beach, after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. "I will not take God off our coins. And I will not take God out of my heart. We're a nation bestowed by God."

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