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

In one week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on a legacy-defining case for President Obama as it determines whether a crucial piece of his signature legislative achievement meets constitutional muster. The health care reform law's path to the high court has underscored a climate of supercharged partisan politics, and the highly anticipated decision expected this summer, in the dead heat of presidential election season, will help determine the trajectory of the nation's health care system.

The main question facing the justices is whether the law's requirement that Americans purchase insurance falls within the limits of federal power under the Constitution. They'll also hear arguments on whether, if the mandate is deemed unconstitutional, other aspects of the law such such coverage guarantee also need to be struck down. There's a chance that the court will punt the case to after 2014 under a law that says a tax may not be challenged in court until it is being collected.

Read More →

Republicans need to "get off" the issue of contraception and "fix" the perception that the party has spurned women, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) declared Sunday.

The party's 2008 standard-bearer, now a Mitt Romney surrogate, was asked by David Gregory on NBC's Meet The Press whether he thinks that "there is something of a war on women among Republicans."

"I think we have to fix that," McCain said. "I think that there is a perception out there, because of the way that this whole contraception issue played out. We need to get off of that issue, in my view. I think we ought to respect the right of women to make choices in their lives, and make that clear, and get back on to what the American people really care about: jobs and the economy."

Read More →

Rick Santorum has garnered quite a bit of attention recently for his animated remarks against pornography, and on two separate Sunday shows the Republican presidential candidate refused to cede an inch, doubling down on his crusade against "hard-core pornography."

A recently added section on the candidate's website declares that America is "suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography," and laments that the "Obama Administration has turned a blind eye to those who wish to preserve our culture from the scourge of pornography and has refused to enforce obscenity laws." The site goes on to say that the Justice Department "seems to favor pornographers over children and families."

Read More →

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a heralded Republican strategist, offered up yet more evidence Sunday that the GOP is coalescing around a 2012 message along the lines of: the economy is improving but it could be much better.

"The American people are being told by the news media, by the liberal media elite, how great the economy is. Well the economy is not great out in America," Barbour said on ABC's This Week. "Maybe it's gotten a little better but it kind of reminds me of an old country song from my youth -- the lyrics were, I've been down so long it looks like up to me now."

"So yeah, we've had some improvement on jobs, but we need a lot more," he added.

Bill Burton, former White House deputy spokesman who now runs the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA, countered on ABC, "I think the Clint Eastwood ad that it's halftime in America is probably a little more accurate."

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) cracked a joke about Rick Santorum and condoms in a St. Patrick's Day speech in Boston, per a video clip captured by BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski.

"I see that both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum now have Secret Service with them on the campaign trail," Brown said. "And in Santorum's case I think it's the first time he's actually ever used protection."

The crowd broke into laughter and applause, putting a satisfied look on Brown's face.

Update 1:15 pm ET: It turns out Brown isn't the first to make the joke.

Weeks ago, the late-night comedian Conan O'Brien said: "As of today, Rick Santorum will be assigned Secret Service agents. This is the first time Santorum has agreed to use any kind of protection."

Mitt Romney surrogate John McCain said Sunday that his candidate is "improving dramatically" but needs to do better in order to seal the deal for the Republican presidential nomination.

"Obviously Mitt Romney will tell you, first of all, he's got to do a better job. He's working on doing a better job. He's got to focus more on the economy," McCain said on NBC's Meet The Press. "And I think he is improving dramatically as a candidate."

He called the primary race "the nastiest I have ever seen" and fiercely denounced Super PAC spending and the Citizens United ruling that helped enable them.

Rick Santorum doubled down Sunday on his odd claim that the Obama administration's Justice Department "seems to favor pornographers over children and families."

Asked to defend the statement on CNN's State of the Union, the candidate didn't flinch, claiming the president's DOJ has not prosecuted porn laws as vigorously as his predecessor's DOJ.

"Well you have to look at the proof that's in the prosecution. Under the Bush administration, pornographers were prosecuted much more rigorously under existing law than they are under the Obama administration. So you draw your conclusion," Santorum said. "My conclusion is they have not put a priority on prosecuting these cases, and in doing so, they are exposing children to a tremendous amount of harm. And that to me says they're putting the unenforcement of this law and putting children at risk as a result of that."

On Sunday, Rick Santorum took on Mitt Romney's argument that he's better qualified to be president, having run a business.

'Running is business is not the same as being president of the United States," Santorum said on CNN's State of the Union. "If Governor Romney thinks he is the CEO of America, and can run and manage the economy, he doesn't understand what conservatives believe in. We don't want someone in Washington, DC to manage the economy. We want someone to get Washington out of our lives, to reduce these mandate, get rid of things like Romneycare at the federal level which we call Obamacare, and do some things to get this economy going by believing in the private sector -- something that Governor Romney has shown no indication he's in favor of."

Santorum called Romney "uniquely disqualified on some of the biggest issues of the day like Obamacare and bailouts and cap and trade and government control of your lives."

His point plays to conservative instincts but gets at an argument that Democrats have yet to fully make about the relevance of Romney's business background to his presidential ambitions.

The powerful seniors group AARP is set to meet privately later this month with advocates of cuts to Social Security and Medicare, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, John Engler of Business Roundtable and former Government Accountability Office director David Walker, according to the Huffington Post.

The invite list also included Social Security and Medicare champion Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute, who reportedly said he isn't planning to attend.

The article by Ryan Grim and Ariel Edwards-Levy included this statement from an AARP spokeswoman:

"AARP is not pursuing any closed door deals or grand bargains. Our main focus is hearing from our members, and all Americans, what they think about ways to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. That's precisely why we're launching 'You've Earned a Say.' We are interested in hearing from all sides and having civil discourse on these issues."

Senate Democrats are pushing for Congress to reauthorize the normally noncontroversial Violence Against Women Act. But thanks to some expanded provisions that are inviting Republican objections -- along with a heightened political atmosphere that has made anything women-related volatile -- it has become plenty controversial.

Dems intend to exploit GOP divisions on the measure and portray some members' newfound opposition as evidence that the party intends to continue waging a "war on women."

"It will be very hard for Republicans to come out and oppose VAWA now after all they've done over the last few weeks to alienate women," a senior Senate Democratic aide told TPM. "This bipartisan bill should be a no-brainer, and hopefully Republican leaders see that and allow it to pass."

Read More →