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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

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), a member of the Democratic leadership, pushed back Sunday on the conservative argument that President Obama's contraception mandate violates religious liberties.

"I'm a Catholic. I think the Constitution got it right: Protect religious liberty," Becerra said on NBC's Meet The Press. "But if my Church wants to start being an insurance company, if my Church wants to be an Internet company, it doesn't have the same religious freedoms to discriminate against women, not letting them become priests. And it shouldn't have the same rights as it has as a Church to do business. So if it wants to be in the business of providing health insurance, it should do what every other health insurer must do under our laws."

Newt Gingrich repeatedly attacked the impact of "secular government" on religious liberty, referring to President Obama's contraception mandate as well as other federal laws and regulations premised on secularism.

"Every time you turn around, secular government is closing in on and shrinking the right of religious liberty in America, and I think there are millions of people who are very disturbed by it," he told NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday.

"Every American who cares about religious liberty recognizes that from judges who say you can't say a prayer at high school, the New York City decision recently, you can't rent an empty school building on Sunday morning," the 2012 Republican presidential candidate said. He also griped about gay adoption rules that apply to religious institutions, saying, "I think this is a very profound moment for Americans."

Ron Paul said Sunday morning on ABC's "This Week" that there remains some confusion over the vote count in last night's Nevada GOP caucuses, but said he'll keep pushing on after his loss.

He told George Stephanopoulos:

Well, you know, the votes aren't all counted yet, and there seems to be a bit of chaos out there, even though it was a small caucus vote. There was a lot of confusion. So, yes, if you go from second to third, there would be disappointment, but also on the positive side, we will get a bloc of votes. We will still get some delegates. And we still will pursue, you know, our plan to go into the caucus states. And we'll have to wait and see how things go. 

Well, you know, it's hard to say exactly when, but we have three or four caucus states that we believe our numbers are doing pretty good, so we have to just wait and see and continue to do exactly what we're doing.  

The morning after he was comfortably defeated in the Nevada GOP contest, Newt Gingrich again attacked Mitt Romney over his now-famous "very poor" comments.

"The key from my standpoint is to make this a big choice campaign. You just had a quote from Governor Romney that's the perfect example," Gingrich told NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday. "He says he doesn't worry much about the very poor, because they have a safety net. Well, the safety net in any ways has become a spider web. It traps them at the bottom. Conservatives, real conservatives, have been trying for years to develop a trampoline effect where we help people leave poverty."

"And I think there are a series of very big differences about the level of change we would bring to Washington," he added. "The Wall Street Journal described [Romney's positions] as timid, and in terms of tax policies being like Obama."

Gingrich pressed on with a series of attacks on the former Massachusetts governor's record and policy proposals.

"Our goal is to get to Super Tuesday, which is much more favorable territory," he said. "We believe by the time Texas is over, we'll be very, very competitive in delegate count."

Tony Perkins, who leads the socially conservative Family Research Council, said Sunday that Mitt Romney has a long way to go before capturing the evangelical vote despite apparent gains in his Nevada victory last night.

"I disagree that Romney has captured the evangelical support, the conservative support. We see that they're warming to him, but he still has a long way to go," Perkins said on CNN's State of the Union. "I think Mitt is warming to it. He's made statements about religious freedom. I think he can get there. But we're still a ways away from that point."

"I think there's strong overlap between tea party and evangelical voters," he added.

The social conservative attacked President Obama for his contraception mandate, which religious conservatives have been freaking out over.

The tea party group FreedomWorks' leader Dick Armey predicted Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that Newt Gingrich probably won't be able to replicate his South Carolina victory in upcoming primaries.

"South Carolina was an aberration," said Armey, a former House Majority Leader, predicting that it will end up looking like Newt's "best moment" when all is said and done. "I don't think Newt will be able to replicate that magic moment he had in South Carolina. He had a confluence of circumstances that came and he had just that one masterful moment where he transformed himself from perpetrator to victim, attacked the media."

Armey said tea partiers won't get the president they want in Gingrich or Mitt Romney but will support any Republican over a Democrat.

"We would rather have a Republican president that's not fully the guy we adore wanting our affections than a Democrat president who despises us," Armey said. "So clearly it's in the best interest to our policy objectives to support whatever Republican president might want to take the office and then seek our respect and admiration."

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), a Mitt Romney surrogate, said Sunday that the improving economic situation is thanks to Republican governors, not President Obama.

"Look, I'm glad the economy is starting to recover but I think it's because of what Republican governors are doing in their states. Not because of the president," McDonnell said on CNN's State of the Union.

"It's been a complete failure of leadership," he said of Obama.

McDonnell added that Romney is "on a roll" and that the electoral "math is lining up very well for" him after his resounding victory in Saturday's Nevada GOP contest.

Does the Senate's passage of the STOCK bill suggest the Republicans have lost their obstructionist mojo? Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) seems to think so.

The third-ranked Senate Democrat made the taunt hours before the chamber's overwhelming 96-3 approval of the President Obama-backed STOCK Act Thursday, which aims to crack down on congressional insider trading. He accused GOP lawmakers of inelegantly dragging their feet on STOCK as well as the payroll tax cut in an effort to sink the measures.

"Haven't they learned the lesson?" Schumer told reporters. "Their obstruction, which they did more artfully last year, is now becoming clear to the public. Their idea of blocking bills with no fingerprints on them is gone. Everyone sees loud and clear what they're doing."

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The Senate reacted Thursday to a public uproar over the awkward reality that insider trading laws don't already apply to members of Congress. With lawmakers fearful of being painted on the wrong side of the issue, the STOCK Act passed 96-3. Senators from both sides of the aisle practically fell over themselves to herald the bill's passage and tout the importance of restoring the public's trust in Congress.

But does this bill really help with that? Critics say it's heavy on grandstanding, but short on substance.

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As religious groups freak out over the Obama administration's contraception mandate, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) piled on by claiming that the policy is unconstitutional.

The mandate, authorized under the Affordable Care Act, holds that employer-provided health insurance plans must provide birth control to women without co-pays. Houses of worship are exempt, and religious nonprofits are allowed an additional year before they begin complying. But conservative religious organizations and their allies on Capitol Hill say that's not enough.

"I think this mandate violates our constitution," Boehner told reporters on Thursday. "I think it violates the right of these religious organizations. And I would hope that the administration would back up and take another look."

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