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

After weeks of deadlock, Congress appears to be narrowing its differences on how to avert a hike in student loan interest rates on July 1.

The public manner of negotiations suggests that a deal may not be imminent. But the back-and-forth reveals that both parties feel enough election-year pressure not to be seen on the wrong side of the cause.

The latest development came late Thursday afternoon when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wrote a letter responding to GOP leaders' proposal on how to fund the $6 billion cost of a one-year freeze.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) chimed in late Thursday on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) offer on how to avert a student loan interest rate hike on July 1. 

McConnell's spokesman Don Stewart said in an email to TPM:

While we still haven’t heard from the White House on our bipartisan proposal, we are encouraged to see the majority leader drop his insistence on taxing job creators. We will review these new proposals and hope that they will finally review the bipartisan proposals we sent a week ago. But bottom line, now that Democrats are willing to take this issue seriously, and not just use students as props, we may be making progress.

And we were particularly surprised to see the majority leader acknowledge that forcing businesses to ‘redirect money away from job creation’ is bad for jobs. As tax hikes on job creators would certainly redirect funds from job creation, we hope that sentiment will continue and we renew our call for Democrats to join our effort to prevent the largest tax hike in American history.

The author of a book documenting the White House's policy making strategy, cited multiple times by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, says the former Massachusetts governor is using the book to dishonestly accuse President Obama of intentionally harming the economy.

"That is false, in a variety of ways. I don't believe that it's substantively true," Noam Scheiber, author of The Escape Artists, told TPM by phone Thursday morning.

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has announced Thursday that he is replacing Barry Jackson, his Chief of Staff, with Mike Sommers, currently his Deputy Chief of Staff for Leadership Operations.

A statement from his office said Jackson will become Senior Counselor to the Speaker, while Sommers takes responsibility for day-to-day operations.

“As I noted last month, the decisions that lie ahead this year and early next year will have huge implications for our economy and the future of our country," Boehner said. "This transition is about preparing fully for the responsibilities ahead, even as we stay focused on the week-to-week House agenda of removing government barriers to job creation."

The theory that Republicans are deliberately thwarting economic progress has its roots in the early days of Barack Obama's presidency. Democrats have preferred to count on a steady recovery to make their case, but grim economic news of late has them wondering if nailing the GOP for sabotage may be their best hope of winning on Election Day.

"I don't have any doubt at this point -- the Republicans are clearly rooting for recession as hard as they can," said veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, who believes the Obama campaign should aggressively make the argument. "People need to know what's happening and there's nothing wrong with explaining it. Republicans' actions give more and more credibility to [the notion], and if independent voters become convinced of it they'll be furious."

Lately the charge has taken on a new vigor, from progressive commentary to the highest echelons of the Democratic totem pole. Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod last Sunday said Republicans have been "high-fiving each other on days when there is bad news." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Tuesday pointedly accused House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) of seeking to sabotage the economy for partisan gain.

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If economic growth continues to slow ahead of the election, Democrats' pitch to voters may have to sharpen as the party's odds of victory in the presidential and congressional elections would likely worsen.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) floated one possible trial balloon Tuesday afternoon when he accused House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) of deliberately sabotaging the economy for partisan gain.

"You have heard, as I've heard, that there's a battle going on between Cantor and [House Speaker John] Boehner as to whether or not there should be a [highway] bill," Reid told reporters. "Cantor, of course -- I'm told by others that he wants to not do a bill to make the economy worse, because he feels that's better for them. I hope that's not true."

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The seismic shift continues.

Key House Republicans on Tuesday left the door open to supporting pieces of "Obamacare" in a replacement package the GOP wants to be prepared with if the Supreme Court overturns the health care law later this month.

"It would be hard to write a 2,700-page bill and not have something in there that you like," Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), a physician and leading GOP voice on health policy, told reporters in response to a question from TPM.

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The Senate went back to the future on Tuesday.

Republicans unanimously filibustered Democratic-led legislation aimed at closing the pay gap between women and men. The measure would beef up protections for women who sue employers for gender-based wage discrimination or discuss pay with their co-workers -- and the GOP blocked it just as it did in late 2010 when the Paycheck Fairness Act last came up.

The cloture motion went down 52-47 -- short of the 60 votes needed to proceed.

"We already have on the books the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which I did support," Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told a few reporters in the Capitol. "And I believe that they provide adequate protections. I think this bill would result in excessive litigation that would impose a real burden, particularly on small businesses. So I think existing laws are adequate."

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Mitt Romney's support for an individual mandate as part of his signature health care legislation in 2006 has never been in doubt. But emails unearthed between then Massachusetts Governor Romney and top staffers reveal how close he was to the crafting of "Romneycare" and provide details on how he persuaded a skeptical Democratic legislature to adopt the provision.

The emails, obtained by the Wall Street Journal, reveal a politically savvy governor and his team seeking to maneuver a complex bill through the Massachusetts legislature. The bill became the template for President Obama's national health care law, which Romney promises to repeal if elected president.

For team Romney, it was clear from the start that a mandate would be critical.

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