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

Sensing that Democrats have them cornered on an issue central to a key voting bloc, Republicans are choosing to fight fire with fire.

The House GOP unveiled a dueling version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization on Wednesday, setting up a confrontation with Senate Democrats who are poised to pass a measure that would extend the law's protections to Native Americans, gays and undocumented immigrants.

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In his fervent defense Wednesday of Arizona's right to crack down on illegal immigration, Justice Antonin Scalia likened immigration enforcement to crackdowns on bank robbers.

"What's wrong about the states enforcing federal law?" Scalia said during his aggressive questioning of U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. "There is a federal law against robbing federal banks. Can it be made a state crime to rob those banks? I think it is."

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By the end of Wednesday's Supreme Court oral arguments on the constitutionality of Arizona's immigration law, there was renewed hope for the law's backers that at least some aspects of it might survive, although no clear majority emerged one way or another.

Justice Antonin Scalia led the charge among justices inclined to agree with Arizona. He passionately argued that the Constitution provides states the authority to craft immigration policy to protect their borders -- an argument at odds with longstanding precedent.

"What does sovereignty mean if it does not include the ability to defend your borders? The states can police their borders," Scalia said, suggesting that the White House opposes the law because it "does not want [immigration] law enforced rigorously."

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The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday morning on the Arizona law and whether key provisions pass constitutional muster. No clear majority emerged one way or another. It appeared possible that the court will strike down some aspects of the law while upholding others.

Arguing the case for the U.S. was Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, and for Arizona lawyer Paul Clement -- a rematch after the two faced off weeks ago before the high court on health care arguments. Clement again outshone his opponent.

Karl Rove warned Republicans that attempts to link President Obama to the ongoing Secret Service and GSA scandals would be perceived as political overreach. But so far, they haven't been able to help themselves.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) pushed full speed ahead this week, writing a letter to the White House seeking answers on whether others were somehow involved in the Secret Service prostitution scandal. Then on Tuesday he suggested on an Iowa radio station that the Colombian prostitutes at the heart of the inquiry may have been Russian spies.

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Arizona's controversial immigration measure has inspired numerous boycotts -- and on Tuesday, it provoked another, when Senate Republicans refused to show up at a hearing on the measure. The hearing took place one day before the Supreme Court begins to weigh its constitutionality, leaving Democrats to spar with the author of the measure and paint the GOP as "absent" -- literally -- on immigration reform.

The hearing comes ahead of an election in which the two parties are battling for Hispanic voters, who strongly oppose the S.B. 1070 law and who lean Democratic by a huge margin. The Democrats' hearing reflects an effort to highlight this divide, in part because they used the occasion to make an impassioned case for the DREAM Act.

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Mitt Romney lurched ever closer to the political center Monday, in a move that presages both dramatic implications on Capitol Hill and growing tensions between Romney and his GOP allies in Congress.

We've seen several signs that Romney is recalibrating for the general election in recent weeks -- he tacitly backed Democrats' equal-pay law and now articulates more widely his support for the principle behind the DREAM Act. But for the first time Monday, he waded into an ongoing legislative battle -- over student loans -- and sided with President Obama and the Democrats against House and Senate Republicans.

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Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (SD) weighed in Tuesday on Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) work-in-progress DREAM Act, which is billed as a toned down Republican alternative to the Democrats' version.

"Our nominee now, Governor Romney, will I believe in due time, engage in a discussion about how to deal with the immigration issue," Thune told TPM in the Capitol. "Whether or not that's the Rubio approach or something else, I think remains to be seen. But I do think -- I give Marco credit. I think he's been very thoughtful about how he's approaching this. We haven't seen the details yet so it's hard to make any sort of a judgement about where any of us might come down on that. But I give him great credit for proceeding and taking on what is a very difficult issue but doing it in a very thoughtful way."

Rubio says his DREAM Act will provide temporary but extendable visas to undocumented children who attend college or serve in the military. Unlike the Democrats' version it will come with no guarantee of eventual permanent residency or citizenship.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters Tuesday that he supports legislation to avert an interest rate hike on student loans, an issue that has put Mitt Romney on the side of President Obama against House Republicans, who have been wary of an extension.

"The president has come out for a one-year extension. Governor Romney's come out for a one-year extension. We're discussing it as well," McConnell said at his weekly press conference. "And I understand, as you've indicated, that the majority leader's going to bring it up afterwards. So we'll let you know. But we're in the process of discussing it among ourselves. I don't think anybody believes this interest rate ought to be allowed to rise. The question is how you pay for it and how long do you do the extension."

Student loan interest rates are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent for some 7 million students in July.