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

Two years ago, even as the Republican Party stormed into power in the House, a crop of hard-right Senate nominees flamed out and cost the party valuable seats. Now, it might be déjà vu as Democrats happily compare several new conservative Senate candidates to Christine O'Donnell, the tea party darling who infamously cost Republicans what should have been a surefire seat.

The latest is Tuesday's Missouri primary victor, the six-term conservative Rep. Todd Akin, who defeated two more moderate Republicans better positioned to unseat the highly vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

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Last summer, Democrats reached a low point as the debt limit debacle was wrapping up. Not only did they succumb to the GOP's debt-reduction ransom in order to prevent an economic calamity, they failed to extract a penny in new tax revenues, and fissures were deepening between congressional leadership and the White House after President Obama offered to chop Medicare and Social Security. Republicans were firmly in control.

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A battle between leaders of the two parties over campaign finance rules intensified this week as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accused Republicans of flat-out threatening the Internal Revenue Service after they warned the agency not to tighten oversight of anonymous money groups misusing the tax code.

The squabble is about how forcefully to crack down on groups approved under special 501(c)(4) tax status by claiming to primarily engage in "social welfare," but which pour significant resources into political activities. Democrats want a strict cap on how much money they may spend for politics; Republicans prefer the ambiguity of the status quo. Beneath the issue is a sea of anonymous spending in which pro-GOP groups are drowning Democrats.

By using 501(c)(4) status, these "political charities" are allowed to keep their donors anonymous, leaving voters unable to evaluate which interests might be funding ads or what their motives are.

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A new ad by Mitt Romney attacks President Obama's directive to let states test new ways to implement welfare reform. But as governor of Massachusetts, Romney himself pushed the federal government for a similar policy.

"On July 12th, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements," a narrator in the Romney ad says.

In 2005, Romney and 28 other Republican governors wrote a letter to Congress requesting even more flexibility than Obama has offered, for the purpose of "[e]mpowering states to seek new and innovative solutions to help welfare recipients achieve independence."

"Increased waiver authority, allowable work activities, availability of partial work credit and the ability to coordinate state programs are all important aspects of moving recipients from welfare to work," read the letter, which was co-signed by prominent GOP governors like Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry, Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee and Jon Huntsman.

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President Obama supports reinstating the assault weapons ban, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday, on the heels of back-to-back shooting rampages in the United States.

As a presidential candidate, Obama supported renewal of the 1994-2004 federal ban on manufacturing some semi-automatic weapons for civilian use. But he hasn't pushed for it as president, largely steering clear of the issue.

"He does support renewing the assault weapons ban," Carney said at his press briefing, one day after a shooter killed six people at a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin. In response to several questions, he added that "there has been reluctance by Congress to pass that renewal."

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The fierce pushback from Republicans against Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) appears to only be fueling his quest to tear down Mitt Romney over his finances. The Senate majority leader is telegraphing that he has no interest in letting up.

The latest salvo in the intensifying spat comes from Reid's chief of staff David Krone, who upped the taunts by calling Republicans "a bunch of cowards" and "henchmen for Romney" in an interview with Politico late Sunday night.

"To turn it around, all their childish rants this weekend about calling Reid a 'liar' and all that, it just shows you how scared they are that Harry Reid was telling the truth," Krone told the paper.

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White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that President Obama hasn't expressed an opinion to him on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) persistent claims that Mitt Romney didn't pay taxes for a decade.

Asked repeatedly at his daily briefing, Carney said Reid "certainly speaks for himself" and referred additional questions to the Democratic leader's office. He said Obama believes in the tradition of presidential hopefuls releasing a series of tax returns to the public.

Republicans have aggressively pushed back and called Reid a liar, noting that he has not yet provided evidence. Obama campaign officials and top Democrats have stood by Reid's claim -- he says he learned of it from an as-yet-unnamed Bain Capital investor.

After Republicans let loose against Harry Reid on Sunday for claiming Mitt Romney didn't pay taxes for 10 years, the Senate majority leader's chief of staff returned the favor.

"They’re a bunch of cowards, and they’re avoiding the issue," David Krone told Politico. "Lindsey Graham, Reince Priebus -- they’re a bunch of henchmen for Romney, and they’re all reading off the same talking points. They couldn’t hold a candle to Harry Reid."

Krone defended his boss, saying Reid merely repeated "the fact of what he was told. To turn it around, all their childish rants this weekend about calling Reid a 'liar' and all that, it just shows you how scared they are that Harry Reid was telling the truth."

According to Politico, Krone knows who the source of Reid's claims is -- he has declined to publicly identify the individual but says it's a successful investor to Bain familiar with Romney's tax records.

On the Sunday talk shows, Republicans expressed outrage over Sen. Harry Reid's (D-NV) unsubstantiated claim that Mitt Romney has not paid taxes in 10 years, flatly accusing the Senate majority leader of lying.

On ABC's "This Week," an incensed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called Reid a "dirty liar," saying he "complains about people with money but lives in the Ritz Carlton here down the street."

"It's ridiculous, it's wrong, it's untrue, and it's just going to hurt the president," he said of the claim, accusing President Obama of inciting "division and hatred." Watch the video of his remarks:

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