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

After an aggressive rebuke from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Thursday, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist told TPM that he never actually compared the senator's legislation to actions taken by the Nazis.

"My criticism of our friend Mr. Schumer was that his bill was similar to the German legislation from the '30s," Norquist said in a phone interview. "He's the guy who yelled Nazi. I didn't say Nazi. I didn't say National Socialist."

The Nazi analogy was characterized in a story by The Hill last Saturday, after Norquist told the paper of Schumer's citizenship tax-dodging bill: "I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the '70s and in South Africa as well. He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German."

Norquist, the president of Americans For Tax Reform, says his reference was to a 1931 law instituted by the pre-Nazi Centre Party, which imposed an exit tax on those who fled Germany. The Nazis continued to implement the law.

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Moments before the Senate rejected a drug reimportation measure for the umpteenth time, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Thursday accused the drug industry of exerting its influence at the expense of low-income Americans.

"In a normal world this would probably require a voice vote. But what we're about to see is the incredible influence of the special interests, particularly PhRMA," McCain said. "What you're about to see is the reason for the cynicism that the American people have about the way we do business here in Washington. PhRMA, one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, will exert its influence again at the expense of low-income Americans who will again have to choose between medication and eating."

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Sen. Chuck Schumer issued a fiery rebuke Thursday to conservatives who have criticized his legislation, inspired by Facebook's Eduardo Saverin, aimed at cracking down on Americans who renounce their citizenship to duck taxes.

The New York Democrat took to the Senate floor to declare he's "appalled" that conservatives would "rush to the defense of a man who is turning his back on America." He said he's seen a "torrent of vitriol" in response to his bill, calling the nature of the pushback "absurd," "off the deep end," "baffling" and "odious."

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The Senate voted 96-1 on Thursday to re-authorize the 1993 Prescription Drug User Fee Act, averting a downsizing of the FDA that could lengthen the approval process for getting important drugs and medical devices on the market.

PDUFA permits drug companies to provide funding for FDA resources to review and approve medications. The policy currently provides for a large portion of the agency's budget for such activities. 

Senators heralded the rare bipartisan spirit with which the bill sailed through the chamber. The only no-vote was Sen. Bernie Sander (I-VT). Partner legislation is expected to pass the House soon.

Senate Democrats are advancing legislation to beef up equal pay protections for women, the latest salvo in the election-year battle for women voters.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is set to file cloture Thursday on the Paycheck Protection Act, which would strengthen protections for women who sue for pay discrimination. The move puts Republicans in an uncomfortable position as they work to repair their weak brand image with women voters ahead of the November election.

Five female Democratic senators talked up the bill Wednesday afternoon during a Capitol briefing -- and made clear they intend to hammer Republicans as anti-women if they stand in its way.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wrote Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) a letter Wednesday calling on him to permit a vote on the expiring middle-class tax cuts enacted by President Bush and extended by President Obama in 2010.

Her full letter:

Dear Speaker Boehner:

Without further delay, the Majority Leadership should schedule a vote on extension of the middle-income tax cuts, as early as next week, to increase certainty for millions of American taxpayers and for the economy.  We should not delay passing this legislation that will help afford all Americans the opportunity to reach their goals and realize the promise of the American Dream. 

We must ask the very wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.  Democrats believe that tax cuts for those earning over a million dollars a year should expire and that we should use the resulting revenues to pay down the deficit. 

By ensuring that the middle-income tax cuts do not expire, we will put money into the pockets of American consumers, saving the typical middle-income family thousands of dollars per year.   Extension of this middle-income tax cut will inject demand into our markets and strengthen small businesses.  By investing in both the short-term growth of our economy and the long-term prosperity of our nation, it will empower the entrepreneurial spirit of the American people.  We cannot afford another manufactured crisis that unnecessarily threatens the full faith and credit of the United States and jeopardizes our economic recovery.

Extending middle-income tax cuts that benefit nearly all Americans is not controversial.  Congressional leaders across the ideological spectrum agree that we should not be raising taxes on middle-income people at this delicate time in our recovery from the worst recession in 70 years.  It is unacceptable to hold tax cuts for the middle class hostage to extending multi-billion dollar tax breaks for millionaires, Big Oil, special interests, and corporations that ship jobs overseas. 

I urge you to allow the House to vote on the permanent extension of middle-income tax cuts now and for Democrats and Republicans to work together to strengthen our middle class, create jobs, and grow our economy in a balanced and fiscally responsible way.

Thank you for your consideration.

best regards,


Democratic Leader

A dominant theme of the national political discourse has been the crushing spending spree the U.S. has ostensibly embarked on during the Obama presidency. That argument, ignited by Republicans and picked up by many elite opinion makers, has infused the national dialogue and shaped the public debate in nearly every major budget battle of the last thee years.

But the numbers tell a different story.

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An election-year effort by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to advance a scaled-back DREAM Act is drawing praise from Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), the Democrats' most vocal crusader for comprehensive immigration reform.

"The problem [on immigration reform] has never been the Democratic Party. The problem has been Republican votes," Gutiérrez told TPM in an interview Tuesday. "And Rubio is the first light reaching out of the tunnel. So I wish him success."

Rubio has yet to release his bill, but he says it will offer legal residency to some undocumented immigrants raised in the United States and give them the opportunity to seek citizenship through the regular channels.

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In the escalating battle over how to avoid a looming economic contraction next year, Democratic leaders are continuing to rebuff Republican efforts to avert scheduled tax hikes and military spending cuts without bringing new tax revenues into the deficit-reduction mix.

"Once Republicans are willing to abandon their commitment to more tax breaks for multi-millionaires and special interests and their plans to end Medicare, I am confident that we can reach an agreement," wrote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in a Tuesday letter to Republicans. "Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans' blind adherence to Tea Party extremism is making it impossible to reach this sort of balanced agreement before the election."

Reid's letter came in response to a letter from 41 Senate Republicans demanding action while continuing to reject the prospect of asking wealthier Americans to contribute more to debt-reduction.

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Sensing a political opportunity, Democrats are working to back Republicans into a corner on legislation designed to punish Americans who renounce their citizenship to avoid paying taxes, as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin did.

The legislation, unveiled last Thursday by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bob Casey (D-PA), provoked over-the-top conservative pushback, with Grover Norquist and the Wall Street Journal editorial board comparing it to the actions of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), conscious of not being portrayed as defending jet-setting elites who seek to avoid their legal obligations, said Sunday that Saverin's actions were "outrageous." He told ABC's "This Week" he may support the Schumer-Casey bill, but hedged that he wasn't sure it's necessary.

Now, with an apparent rift emerging, Democrats are twisting the knife.

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