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

Grilled about her support for the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) told a home state radio interviewer that the law's core structure is "exactly" like the House GOP Medicare privatization plan that conservatives support and liberals detest.

"The irony of this situation is that these are private insurance companies people will shop to buy their insurance. It's not the government," she told KMOX of St. Louis on Wednesday. "It's exactly what Paul Ryan wants to do for Medicare."

"It's subsidized by the government -- premium subsidies -- which is exactly, this is the irony," continued McCaskill, who faces a tough reelection battle this fall. "You think what Paul Ryan wants to do for seniors, you think it's terrific. But when we want to provide private health insurance for people who don't have insurance with subsidies from the government, you think it's terrible."

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Amid rumblings that House Republicans may break their end of a major budget agreement they struck with Democrats last fall, and possibly touch off another government shutdown battle later this year, a top Senate Democrat issued a stern warning to the GOP: Don't go there.

"We had a deal last August on the budget numbers, and we expect them to live with that deal," said Sen. Patty Murray (WA) -- a member of the Democratic leadership, high-ranking member of the Budget Committee and erstwhile co-chair of the Super Committee -- in an interview with TPM. "I have been astonished how many times they play with fire. Last August they almost shut the government down, a year ago they almost shut the government down, by trying to go to a place where most Americans don't believe we should be going."

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From one top GOP senator openly lamenting the fallout of the ongoing fight over contraception, to the author of the controversial legislation at the heart of that fight effectively conceding defeat in the upper chamber, signs mounted Tuesday that suggest Senate Republicans want to put the birth control controversy to bed.

"You know, I think we've got as many votes as I think there were to get on that," Senate GOP Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt told TPM Tuesday afternoon after a weekly Capitol briefing. "I think the House side may take some further action. That debate will go on for a long time, though I don't know that there's anything else to happen in the Senate in the near future."

The concession marks a departure for the GOP leadership, which as recently as last week insisted that Republicans were on the right side of the issue and would fight on.

Last Thursday, after his amendment was narrowly tabled 51-48, Blunt vowed that, "The fight is not over." He had maintained that he wants to tack it onto legislation the president cannot veto. But on Tuesday, after a meeting with his caucus, he dialed down expectations for any further action in the Senate.

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Shortly after Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) admitted to her home-state paper that she regrets voting for the GOP's Blunt amendment, which was aimed at rolling back President Obama's contraception rule, she explained to TPM why the issue has weighed heavily on her -- and why she thinks it's damaging her party.

"I heard a lot [from my constituents] because it was in the news this weekend," Murkowski told TPM Tuesday afternoon after attending a weekly GOP policy lunch. "I will tell you, it's not so much just the discussion about contraception that the Blunt amendment precipitated. There's just an awful lot that's been going on. There have been some comments made by some of our presidential candidates. There was the incendiary comments made by Rush Limbaugh."

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A rare apology from Rush Limbaugh has done little to quell the uproar over the radio host's "slut" comment from last week -- and Democrats are working hard to keep it that way.

At his weekly pen and pad, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) launched into an unprompted rebuke of Limbaugh for calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and "prostitute" for her recent testimony contraception and health insurance.

"I want to speak about an issue which was as outrageous an attack as I've seen recently," Hoyer told reporters Tuesday. "Rush Limbaugh's attack on Sandra Fluke was beyond the pale. Indefensible. Vicious. Intimidating to others. ... And it demeans the public faith."

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) told TPM on Tuesday that she was "stunned" by Rush Limbaugh's smear of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke.

"There was the incendiary comments made by Rush Limbaugh that I think are just adding to this sense that women's health rights are being attacked," Murkowski said.

"The comments made by Limbaugh, I was just stunned," she added. "In the end, I'm a little bit disappointed that there hasn't been greater condemnation of his words by people in leadership positions."

Including Republicans? "Everybody," she responded. "What he said was just wrong. Just wrong."

The House Ways & Means Committee will mark up the GOP bill to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) on Thursday morning, Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) announced.

W&M approval is the last hurdle before the bill can hit the floor, as the Energy & Commerce Committee passed it today. The bill already has enough cosponsors to pass the GOP-led House.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Tuesday that the highway bill is being held up in the House due to Republican divisions, and he wouldn't put odds on whether it'll pass anytime soon.

"Republicans are a deeply divided party on a number of issues, not the least of which, of course, is the highway and infrastructure bill. Which would in fact, is passed, be a jobs bill. Would create significant jobs."

The second-ranked House Democrat said the Senate is working in a bipartisan manner with the liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and the conservative Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) putting aside their differences to achieve something. House Republicans, he argued, are refusing to work with Dems.

Hoyer's remarks come as CQ reports that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has "sidelined" Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica from work on the highway bill after his proposal drew criticism from conservative members.

House Republicans are set to advance legislation to repeal a key plank of President Obama's health care law -- the cost-cutting Independent Payment Advisory Board -- and have enlisted several Democrats for a cause that's central to the conservative goal of phasing out traditional Medicare.

On Tuesday, the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee is set to pass repeal of IPAB. The Ways & Means health subcommittee will also hold a hearing on it, bringing the measure closer to a floor vote, and advancing an ongoing fight about whether the government or private insurers should parcel finite health care resources.

While progressive health care reformers have effectively attacked the GOP's vision of a subsidized private health insurance system for seniors, they've been slow to close ranks around the health care law's competing vision of a leaner, more efficient Medicare. But there are signs this is changing.

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