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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

The Supreme Court is poised to rule this summer on the constitutionality of the health care reform law's requirement that Americans buy insurance or pay a tax penalty. But it has the legal option to delay a decision until at least 2014, and although the possibility has received little attention, new evidence suggests that justices are considering it more strongly.

The temporary escape hatch involves the Anti-Injunction Act, an age-old law that says courts may not halt a tax that isn't yet being collected. (Under the Affordable Care Act, it won't be collected until 2014.) Although the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last fall tossed out a lawsuit against the mandate on this basis, most courts have decreed that the statute doesn't apply here.

But further evidence that justices may disagree came Tuesday, when the Supreme Court increased the time for next month's oral arguments from 5.5 hours to 6 hours, allotting an extra half hour to discuss the application of the Anti-Injunction Act. That means there will be a full hour and a half to discuss whether the court has the authority to rule on the health law this year.

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Climate change denial has become a litmus test for modern Republicans, but Rick Santorum, in his fondness for melding faith and government, has become one of the precious few to cite the Bible as evidence that the science-accepting crowd has it all wrong -- and apparently the first to bring that thinking to the presidential stage.

"We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth's benefit," Santorum told a Colorado crowd earlier this month.

He went on to call climate change "an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life."

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A New York Times profile of White House senior adviser David Plouffe has a telling quote from former chief of staff Bill Daley regarding his unique relationship with President Obama.

“The president probably took David’s opinion with more certitude than he did anybody else’s,” said William M. Daley, who left as chief of staff last month after a year in the White House. “If David said X, I think the president would more often believe X than challenge it.”

Plouffe, the Times reports, was an important part of the President's decisions to become more combative with congressional Republicans -- a shift that has coincided with Obama's uptick in job approval -- and pushed for an "aggressive early tack" against Mitt Romney. 

Plouffe was an instrumental part of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. The Times describes him as "fiercely unsentimental," "intense and self-contained," and a "temperament alter ego to a president who has always been drawn to loyal fixer types."

Newt Gingrich said losing one's home state is a bad omen for a presidential candidate -- a clear reference to the troubles Mitt Romney faces in the upcoming primary in his Michigan, where he was born and has family roots.

"I think you'd have a very -- if any of the three loses our home state, if Santorum loses Pennsylvania, Romney loses Michigan, or I lose Georgia, you have, I think, a very, very badly weakened candidacy," Gingrich said on Fox News Sunday.

He refused to say he'll drop out of the race if he loses his home state of Georgia but said, "I'm certainly willing to say I think it's extraordinarily important to carry your home state. And also has an underlying impact if you don't."

Republicans may be backing off their famously toxic plan by Paul Ryan to privatize Medicare, but they've doubled down on the broader concept and are taking strategic steps to get there over time. Democrats currently have the upper hand in their battle to protect traditional Medicare for the future, but unless they thwart the GOP's drumbeat and build support for their alternate vision, it may not be for long.

There's little disagreement that Medicare is currently on an unsustainable trajectory, with costs spiraling out of control thanks in part to aging baby boomers. Democrats and Republicans both want to rein in Medicare spending, and the two sides increasingly agree that per-beneficiary outlays should be held down to per-capita GDP plus 1 percent, a substantial reduction from projections. But they strongly disagree on how to get there.

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As the economy slowly improves, the GOP's effort to recalibrate its message for the 2012 elections continued Sunday as rising star and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels took to arguing that the recovery is too slow and the economy remains "pathetically weak."

"Let's not kid ourselves: this is the worst recovery ever from a serious recession, and history says the deeper the down, the sharper the up," Daniels said on CNN's State of the Union. "It should have been a very vigorous one. Hasn't been."

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Paul Ryan said he thinks it's too late for other Republicans to enter the presidential race, something a number of conservatives continue to yearn for.

I don't see how that could happen. It's just too late, I think," Ryan said Sunday on NBC's Meet The Press. "I have a hard time seeing how somebody could get in at this late date."

Robert Gibbs, former Obama White House press secretary and currently an outside adviser, pushed back forcefully on Rick Santorum's remarks on President Obama's faith and ideology.

His exchange with ABC's Jake Tapper on Sunday:

TAPPER:  You think he was questioning his faith?

GIBBS:  I can't help but think that those remarks are well over the line.  It's wrong.  It's destructive.  It makes it virtually impossible to solve the problems that we all face together as Americans.  People are not sitting at home this morning, Jake, thinking we more of this in our politics or our public discourse.  It's time to get rid of this.  It's time to have a debate on our political positions, but not question each other's character and faith. 

TAPPER:  Rick Santorum denies that he was dog-whistling about the president's faith, suggesting that the president is anything other than a Christian.  You don't necessarily believe that. 

GIBBS:  Jake, I think that if you make comments like that, you make comments that are well over the line.  I think this GOP primary is -- in many cases, Jake, has been a race to the bottom.  We have seen nastiness, divisiveness, ugliness, distortions of opponents' records, of the president's records.

National Journal reports:

Ron Paul said he doesn't think that Rick Santorum can defeat President Obama in a general election. "I don't see how that's possible," he said on Sunday on CNN's State of the Union.

John McCain fretted Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that the intensely negative and personal tenor of the GOP presidential primaries could harm his party's odds of defeating President Obama in November.

His exchange with Jake Tapper:

TAPPER:  Are you worried at the tenor of the campaign being such that President Obama will have a much easier time being re-elected?  I've talked to a lot of Republicans who two or three months ago were very bullish on defeating President Obama and now are very, very worried that, because this race has gotten so nasty -- and, as you suggest, the negative ratings of the candidates have gone so high, he may, in fact, be re-elected. 

MCCAIN:  I am concerned about that Jake.  And I think there's reason to be concerned about it.  I've been in very tough campaigns.  I don't think I've seen one that was as personal and as characterized by so many attacks as these are.  And, frankly, one of the reasons is the super PACs.  And why do we have the super PACs?  Because the ignorance and naivete of the United States Supreme Court in the Citizens United campaign.  

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