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

Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese human rights activist who is under siege by his government, called in to a special committee hearing about his situation Thursday.

According to a translator, Chen told members of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, "Thank all of you for your care and for your love." He said he fears for his and his family's well being and wants to come to the United States.

After the call ended, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said it "absolutely underscores why we're here."

Here is video of the hearing:

Paul Krugman fired back at Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) after the influential Republican laughed off the New York Times columnist's criticisms by saying, "I've always figured I've got three certainties in my life: Death, taxes and attacks from Paul Krugman."

In an exclusive interview following the release of his new book End This Depression Now!, Krugman told TPM, "That's not a substantive remark. I've never attacked him just for nothing in particular. I've gone after his arithmetic and said it doesn't add up at all. And he has never offered a response to that. All he does is make scary noises about the deficit, with mood music, with organ music in the background about how ominous it is, and then propose a plan that would in fact increase the deficit."

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There may not be much President Obama can do to improve the economy between now and the election, but telling a clear story about why it remains weak could mean the difference between victory and defeat this November. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman fears the Obama team is getting that critical narrative wrong.

"They've tied themselves up in knots because they've bought into this notion that it would sound wrong to admit that they haven't been able to do everything that they really should have done," Krugman told TPM in an interview following the release of his new book, "End This Depression Now!" "It's incredible -- they can't quite make up their minds on whether the theme is that Republicans are standing in the way of doing what has to be done, or things are really good and America's back on track. The problem is that you can't perceive both of those lines at the same time."

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Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), the No. 5 House Republican, says he opposes one of the Affordable Care Act's most popular provisions -- a ban on the insurance company practice of discriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions.

"It's a terrible idea," he told Politico.

The remarks reflect a major conundrum for Republicans who, a year and a half after winning back the House, still have no idea how to replace "Obamacare" and are divided over how best to repeal it.

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A spokesman tells TPM that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has seen coverage of UK Parliament's scathing report on phone hacking at News International, and continues to have questions about whether Rupert Murdoch's media empire has engaged in similar conduct in the U.S.

"Senator Rockefeller is just as concerned today as he was last year as to whether Americans were targets of this type of hacking and whether any US laws were broken," said Vince Morris.

The FBI is reportedly investigating the matter, which Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, called for last summer.

In the first two years after "Obamacare" was signed, Medicare reforms in the law saved seniors a total of $3.4 billion in prescription drug costs by bridging a coverage gap, according to official figures.

Over 220,000 beneficiaries have saved an average of $837 in the first three months of 2012, the Medicare agency said Monday. That's on top of $3.2 billion in savings enjoyed by some 5.1 million seniors in 2010 and 2011 thanks to the Affordable Care Act, according to the advisory on the new figures.

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Next up in the Democrats' effort to put Republicans on the wrong side of women's issues: A new bill to combat gender-based pay disparities.

With the general election in full swing, Republicans are working overtime to repair their image with female voters. But Democrats aren't about to let that happen. Now that the Violence Against Women Act is poised to be re-authorized in some form, Dems are planning a push to enhance protections for women who sue for pay discrimination, the kind of measure Republicans have opposed in the past.

Senate Democrats intend to bring up the Paycheck Fairness Act for a vote, a Democratic aide confirms to TPM, as first reported by the New York Times.

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is angling to blame President Obama for the looming failure of his watered-down DREAM Act, and the White House is strongly objecting to that implication, insisting that Rubio's problem is with his own party, not the president.

"The notion that somehow the president or Democrats would be the roadblock to any progress on immigration is ridiculous," a White House official told TPM. "If this proposal fails, the reason will be the Republicans."

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied Rubio's charge that the White House has been "actively trying to torpedo my efforts" on a compromise DREAM Act, as Roll Call reported. The aide said the White House would need to see an actual proposal before weighing in.

"We can't speculate on what may or may not be in the proposal. There is no proposal," the official said. "So there's nothing that we can be trying to torpedo."

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House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan laughed off one of his fiercest critics, declaring, "I've always figured I've got 3 certainties in my life: Death, taxes and attacks from Paul Krugman."

Speaking to the New York Times' Jonathan Weisman, he added that the GOP's aim is to "preempt austerity -- we want to prevent that bitter kind of European austerity mode which is what we will have if we have a debt crisis."

Watch the video: 

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) said Sunday that he supports some principles behind the DREAM Act.

"Some of the concepts are clearly attractive," Barbour said on CBS' Face The Nation. "The fact that people come and serve in the military certainly ought to give them some status in the United States, whether it's that they have the right to stay and to work and long as they pay taxes, as long as they don't break the law. Maybe there should be a different path to citizenship."

The ex-RNC chairman and adviser to the Karl Rove-affiliated Super PAC "American Crossroads" made the remarks as Republicans are working to court Hispanic voters in the 2012 election. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is working on an alternative to the Democrats' version that would include legal status for some undocumented people raised in the U.S., but without the promise of citizenship.

Barbour criticized Democrats for bringing up the DREAM Act during the 2010 lame duck session -- when Republicans blocked it -- and said Hispanic votes are "in play" for the election.