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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

Senate Republicans defeated a motion to take up Buffett Rule legislation the day before taxes are due.

Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill late Monday. The final party-line vote was 51 in favor, 45 against, with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) breaking ranks with their leadership. The sharp contrast promises to be a defining issue in the presidential election this November.

The principle behind the rule -- that people making over $1 million a year should pay at least 30 percent in taxes -- was championed by President Obama in his State of the Union this year and subsequently written into legislation by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The rule includes nuances and exceptions aimed at minimizing adverse incentives. It's expected to raise tax receipts by $47 billion over 10 years, although Democrats say that figure would be at least $160 billion if the Bush tax cuts are extended.

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Not long ago, Mitt Romney was bashing President Obama for a "hot mic" moment. Now, Democrats are making hay out of Mitt Romney's overheard private comments at a fundraiser, in which he offered up some details about tax loopholes he'll close and vowed to take the hatchet to federal departments.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer on Monday called the remarks "a rare moment of candor where he gave his unvarnished view" that helped "pull back the curtain" on his policies which have largely remained a secret.

On a conference call with reporters hosted by the DNC, Schumer noted that the tax promises Romney made during a high-dollar fundraiser don't add up, and argued that "the only way" the ex-governor can pay for his high-end tax cuts is to "clobber" the middle class with damaging cuts to federal departments like education and housing.

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Mitt Romney's remarks at a private fundraiser Sunday, overheard by two campaign reporters, reveal that, even when confiding in well-heeled supporters, his tax plan doesn't add up.

At a Palm Beach, Fla. estate, Romney told big-money donors he'll "probably eliminate for high-income people" the mortgage interest deduction on second homes, as well as deductions for state income and property taxes. "By virtue of doing that, we'll get the same tax revenue, but we'll have lower rates," he said, in remarks overheard by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

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The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a statement of administration policy voicing "strong support" for the Buffett Rule legislation the Senate is currently debating and set to hold a cloture vote on late Monday.

OMB said:

The Administration believes that S. 2230 would not only make the Nation's tax system more fair, but will also help the economy by closing inefficient tax shelters and loopholes and by allowing the Nation to continue making the vital investments that strengthen the economy and provide economic security for middle class families. All Americans are being asked to come together to make the sort of shared sacrifices that will allow the Nation to continue making crucial investments in areas that will help the economy grow and create jobs, such as education, research, and infrastructure. In such a time, the Administration believes that continuing to allow some of the wealthiest Americans to use special tax breaks to avoid paying their fair share simply cannot be justified.

Republicans are expected to successfully block cloture, which requires 60 senators. Democrats say they'll continue pushing the rule whether or not it passes today.

In anticipation of Republicans filibustering a cloture vote late Monday, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) vowed to continue pushing the "Buffett Rule" until it passes.

"We're going to come back to this issue repeatedly," said Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat. "If you keep at these issues … as pressure mounts on the other side, they often are willing to go along. And that gets truer as you get closer and closer to election day."

Whitehouse, the sponsor of the legislation, said he'll "work hard" to make sure the principle -- which requires people making above $1 million per year pay at least 30 percent in taxes -- makes it into any tax reform legislation Congress takes up.

Trayvon Martin's death may have opened a nationwide dialogue about the wisdom of lax gun laws. But that hasn't slowed down the National Rifle Association. The absolutist Second Amendment group remains firmly on offense, representing a movement that has crushed its political adversaries so thoroughly that even tragic tales can't slow its juggernaut.

At its annual convention in St. Louis, Mo. this weekend, NRA's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, decried the "sensational reporting from Florida," referring to stories about Martin, an unarmed teenager recently who was shot to death in late February. NRA Executive Director Chris Cox defended the state's "stand your ground" law that may ultimately let shooter George Zimmerman off the hook, declaring, "Castle doctrine can literally save your life."

These are the words of an aggressive, well-funded lobby that is turning gun lovers' wildest dreams into reality. Indeed, recent high-profile shootings made possible by lax guns laws -- including one that almost killed former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- have failed to arrest the two-decade-long trend, boosted by a pliant Republican Party, a solid Supreme Court majority and a Democratic Party that has mostly abandoned the gun-control cause.

Despite four years of the NRA crowing about the dangers Barack Obama presents to the Second Amendment, his presidency has been remarkably friendly to the pro-gun cause, and persisting fears to the contrary have inspired a golden era of gun rights in the states.

Here are highlights of pro-gun victories since 2009:

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On tax week, Democrats and Republicans return to Washington gearing up for battle over dueling tax proposals. The separate votes this week will highlight a fundamental divide between the two parties, one that promises to define the choice in the 2012 election.

The Republican-led House is set to take up legislation, spearheaded by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, that lets businesses with fewer than 500 employees deduct as much as 20 percent of their 2012 business income. The bill is projected to cost $46 billion, and the tax benefits are tilted toward high earners, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Across the Capitol, the Democratic-led Senate is poised to vote Monday on "Buffett Rule" legislation that requires millionaires and billionaires to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. The measure is projected to raise $47 billion over 10 years if the Bush tax cuts expire; Democrats say that number rises to $160 billion under current policy.

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At a press conference Sunday with the Colombian president, President Obama weighed in on the prostitution scandal involving Secret Service agents.

He said an investigation is underway, and that he expects it to be "thorough and I expect it to be rigorous. If it turns out that that the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I'll be angry."

"When we travel to another country, I expect us to observe the highest standards because we're not just representing ourselves. We're here on behalf of our people," Obama said.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on Sunday derided Mitt Romney's argument that it's President Obama who is waging the "real war on women" as "ridiculous" and based in fiction.

"It's a ridiculous way to look at the problem," he said on ABC's This Week. "And this is a political moment and you're going to be seeing -- just to borrow a line from Mario Cuomo -- 'You're going to see a lot of politicians choose to campaign in fiction. But we have to govern in fact.'"

As Democrats seek to hammer the point that Republican policies on contraception and reproductive rights are antithetical to the interests of women, Romney last week fired back by saying it's Obama who's waging the "real war on women" with his economic policies. In a line that he, his campaign and his surrogates repeated all week, Romney argued on the campaign trail that "92.3 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women."

The argument, while premised in an accurate statistic, is misleading and lacks important context. The early job losses during the recession mostly affected men as they were largely in areas of manufacturing and construction. Women suffered more as the recession fully hit as layoffs hit education and other professions. Now that the recovery is taking hold, men are returning to work sooner as those lost jobs come back at a quicker pace.

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Mitt Romney's senior policy adviser Ed Gillespie defended the candidate's extension filed for completing his 2011 tax returns on Fox News Sunday.

"Like millions of Americans, Governor Romney has filed for an extension to complete his tax returns because he's waiting for other information to come in from other entities that he doesn't have the control of their forms," Gillespie said. "As you know you have to comply and make sure that the forms come up. He's waiting for those to come in. He's paid his estimated taxes and he's released his estimated income. And when the forms are completed and filed, after that he will make them public and that will be before the election. This is not out of the ordinary for people to get an extension."

He said Romney won't release 23 years of tax returns.

"Twenty-three year of personal returns -- this is a classic attempt by the Obama campaign to distract from many of the things I've just been talking about," Gillespie said.

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