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

The nation's top military officer warned Wednesday that automatic defense cuts agreed to in last year's bipartisan debt limit deal could lead to more war.

At a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon has gone along with recent targeted cuts to limited targeted cuts, but argued that the the sweeping across-the-board cuts in the so-called sequestration would weaken the country's ability to deter adversaries and therefore lead to more war.

"Sequestration is absolutely certain to upend this balance. It would lead to further end-strength reductions, the potential cancellation of major weapons systems and the disruption of global operations," Dempsey said. "We can't yet say precisely how bad the damage would be, but it is clear that sequestration would risk hollowing out our force and reducing its military options available to the nation. We would go from being unquestionably powerful everywhere to being less visible globally and presenting less of an overmatch to our adversaries, and that would translate into a different deterrent calculus, and potentially, therefore, increase the likelihood of conflict."

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During a Thursday breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) left the door open to a state-based individual mandate to buy health insurance.

He told reporters he supports the concept of "guaranteed issue" if 'Obamacare' is overturned -- i.e. the guarentee of being able to buy insurance coverage even if one has a pre-existing condition.

The exchange that followed.

REPORTER: Do you think you can have guaranteed issue without a mandate?

WALKER: Well, certainly not a federal mandate. I mean I think those are discussions, debates people can have at the state level.

The Senate on Wednesday defeated a Republican-offered measure to drastically cut food stamps.

The amendment to the farm bill, offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), was shot down 65-33 in the Democratic-led chamber. It would have slashed $322 billion by placing a cap on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending and handing control to states.

The vote is a reminder of the fiercely ideological nature of today's Republican Party, particularly when considering the economic bang for the buck food stamps are known to have. The Congressional Budget Office and other nonpartisan studies have found that food stamps provide exceptionally strong stimulative and job-creation value in an under-performing economy.

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The younger generation is abandoning God in droves.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center finds that belief in the existence of God has dropped 15 points in the last five years among Americans 30 and under.

Pew, which has been studying the trend for 25 years, finds that just 68 percent of millennials in 2012 agree with the statement "I never doubt the existence of God." That's down from 76 percent in 2009 and 83 percent in 2007.

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A bipartisan Senate duo wrote a letter Tuesday calling on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to hold a vote on the upper chamber's version of the Violence Against Women Act re-authorization. Boehner's office promptly declined the request but said the House stands ready to go to conference to resolve the differences between the chambers' bills.

The upshot: The measure remains in limbo, and Democrats will have a harder time including the expanded provisions aimed at protecting gay victims, illegal immigrants and Native Americans in the final version.

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In a surprising move, three of the nation's largest health insurance companies said Monday that they will voluntarily offer several popular benefits in 'Obamacare' even if the law is struck down by the Supreme Court later this month.

UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Aetna say they will continue to let young adults remain on a parent's plan until age 26 and to provide preventive health services without co-pays, whatever the verdict is on the law. UnitedHealthcare and Humana, but not Aetna, also vowed to eliminate lifetime dollar limits on insurance policies and to stop canceling policies unless the policyholder engaged in fraud.

What no insurer agreed to do: guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions.

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Ahead of the looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts, an influential activist known for enforcing GOP anti-tax absolutism is reinterpreting his famous pledge, making it harder for Republicans to compromise in a way that ultimately raises federal revenues.

All but a handful of congressional Republicans have signed -- and strictly adhered to -- Grover Norquist's pledge to "oppose any and all efforts" to raise taxes or revenues. But the White House's insistence that President Obama will veto attempts to extend all of the Bush tax cuts creates a new incentive for Republicans to cut a deal with Democrats after the election. For that reason, Norquist is insisting on an interpretation of his pledge in which failing to prevent a tax increase -- or even voting to partially cut a lapsed rate -- would constitute a violation.

"I think the American people would look at anything that raised taxes from where they are today to be a tax increase," Norquist told TPM Monday. "Everybody knows this has been coming."

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Jeb Bush's remark that Ronald Reagan would be too moderate for today's Republican Party earned an aggressive rebuke from the gatekeeper of the anti-tax orthodoxy that permeates the modern GOP.

"That's foolish," Grover Norquist, the architect of the bedrock never-raise-taxes pledge that nearly every Republican has signed, told TPM in an interview. "It's stup--it's bizarre."

"There's a guy who watched his father throw away his presidency on a 2:1 [ratio of spending cuts to tax increases] promise," Norquist said of Bush. "And he thinks he's sophisticated by saying that he'd take a 10:1 promise. He doesn't understand -- he's just agreed to walk down the same alley his dad did with the same gang. And he thinks he's smart. You walk down that alley, you don't come out. You certainly don't come out with 2:1 or 10:1."

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The worst-kept secret on Capitol Hill is that neither party expects major legislation to pass before the election. The agenda is instead being driven by messaging imperatives aimed at appealing to key voting blocs that could swing the outcome on Election Day.

To that end, Democrats have worked hard to paint Republicans as hostile to the interests of women, Hispanics and young voters -- and the GOP is hoping to contain or reverse the damage without aggravating conservatives in their base.

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MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan is leaving the network, he told the New York Times.

“Once you’ve said your piece, you can either keep saying it — and then it’s a job, good job, pays well, everybody knows your name, it’s great — or you can decide what you’re going to do about it,” Ratigan told the paper. “And the answer is, I don’t know. But I do know, in order to figure it out, I have to dismount.”

His 4 P.M. slot will be reportedly be taken over by current 3 P.M. host Martin Bashir.


Obama Prepares For DHS Shutdown

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama convened a meeting with key administration officials on Friday…