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

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has announced Thursday that he is replacing Barry Jackson, his Chief of Staff, with Mike Sommers, currently his Deputy Chief of Staff for Leadership Operations.

A statement from his office said Jackson will become Senior Counselor to the Speaker, while Sommers takes responsibility for day-to-day operations.

“As I noted last month, the decisions that lie ahead this year and early next year will have huge implications for our economy and the future of our country," Boehner said. "This transition is about preparing fully for the responsibilities ahead, even as we stay focused on the week-to-week House agenda of removing government barriers to job creation."

The theory that Republicans are deliberately thwarting economic progress has its roots in the early days of Barack Obama's presidency. Democrats have preferred to count on a steady recovery to make their case, but grim economic news of late has them wondering if nailing the GOP for sabotage may be their best hope of winning on Election Day.

"I don't have any doubt at this point -- the Republicans are clearly rooting for recession as hard as they can," said veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, who believes the Obama campaign should aggressively make the argument. "People need to know what's happening and there's nothing wrong with explaining it. Republicans' actions give more and more credibility to [the notion], and if independent voters become convinced of it they'll be furious."

Lately the charge has taken on a new vigor, from progressive commentary to the highest echelons of the Democratic totem pole. Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod last Sunday said Republicans have been "high-fiving each other on days when there is bad news." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Tuesday pointedly accused House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) of seeking to sabotage the economy for partisan gain.

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If economic growth continues to slow ahead of the election, Democrats' pitch to voters may have to sharpen as the party's odds of victory in the presidential and congressional elections would likely worsen.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) floated one possible trial balloon Tuesday afternoon when he accused House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) of deliberately sabotaging the economy for partisan gain.

"You have heard, as I've heard, that there's a battle going on between Cantor and [House Speaker John] Boehner as to whether or not there should be a [highway] bill," Reid told reporters. "Cantor, of course -- I'm told by others that he wants to not do a bill to make the economy worse, because he feels that's better for them. I hope that's not true."

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The seismic shift continues.

Key House Republicans on Tuesday left the door open to supporting pieces of "Obamacare" in a replacement package the GOP wants to be prepared with if the Supreme Court overturns the health care law later this month.

"It would be hard to write a 2,700-page bill and not have something in there that you like," Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), a physician and leading GOP voice on health policy, told reporters in response to a question from TPM.

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The Senate went back to the future on Tuesday.

Republicans unanimously filibustered Democratic-led legislation aimed at closing the pay gap between women and men. The measure would beef up protections for women who sue employers for gender-based wage discrimination or discuss pay with their co-workers -- and the GOP blocked it just as it did in late 2010 when the Paycheck Fairness Act last came up.

The cloture motion went down 52-47 -- short of the 60 votes needed to proceed.

"We already have on the books the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which I did support," Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told a few reporters in the Capitol. "And I believe that they provide adequate protections. I think this bill would result in excessive litigation that would impose a real burden, particularly on small businesses. So I think existing laws are adequate."

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Mitt Romney's support for an individual mandate as part of his signature health care legislation in 2006 has never been in doubt. But emails unearthed between then Massachusetts Governor Romney and top staffers reveal how close he was to the crafting of "Romneycare" and provide details on how he persuaded a skeptical Democratic legislature to adopt the provision.

The emails, obtained by the Wall Street Journal, reveal a politically savvy governor and his team seeking to maneuver a complex bill through the Massachusetts legislature. The bill became the template for President Obama's national health care law, which Romney promises to repeal if elected president.

For team Romney, it was clear from the start that a mandate would be critical.

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The conventional wisdom that President Obama has overseen a dramatic surge in government spending has always been shaky. But it faces perhaps its starkest rebuttal in new figures that reveal the sharpest decline of the last half-century in real federal, state and local spending during this presidency.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the new figures in the Federal Reserve Economic Data arrive just days after a lousy jobs report that has exacerbated fears that the economy may be in worse shape than expected. In recent years, state and local governments have received little federal aid to close their budget shortfalls and have therefore made large spending cuts since Obama's 2009 stimulus expired.

"That saps demand still further aggravating a downturn and inhibiting a recovery," said Chad Stone, chief economist for the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "State fiscal assistance in the 2009 recovery act was largely gone by 2011 and state spending cutbacks continued due to pressures for budget austerity in many states and at the federal level."

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Democrats are ramping up their efforts to put the GOP on the wrong side of women voters by aggressively touting legislation aimed at combating pay disparities. But Republicans are cold to the measure, which makes it unlikely to go anywhere in Congress.

President Obama personally promoted the Paycheck Fairness Act in one of three Democratic-led conference calls Monday. He described the measure as good for women and the economy, and name-checked the demographic tri-fecta he's aiming to secure in the election.

"Women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. It's worse for African American women and Latinas," Obama said. "Over the course of her career a woman with a college degree is going to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars less than a man who is doing the same work."

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Mitt Romney is under fire from conservatives for selecting a man to run his White House transition team who has championed a key element of "Obamacare" and benefited financially from the law -- and the Romney campaign is already working to ease the right's concerns.

Romney has tapped Michael Leavitt, the former Utah governor who was the secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, to lead the team that builds his potential administration. He runs the health care consulting firm Leavitt Partners, which advises states on how to set up the insurance market exchanges in the signature Affordable Care Act.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Leavitt "strenuously backed the core piece of President Barack Obama's health-care law and urged the states to move forward together in adopting health insurance exchanges." And his stance hasn't changed: "We believe that the exchanges are the solution to small business insurance market and that's gotten us sideways with some conservatives," Leavitt's top aide Rich McKeown told Politico.

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President Reagan's policies embraced anti-austerity Keynesian economics to a greater degree than President Obama has, and that's why Obama is in trouble, argues Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.

Appearing Sunday on ABC's "This Week," the New York Times columnist and Princeton professor argued that Reagan was able to reduce unemployment after taking office in part because he grew government jobs -- unlike Obama, who has significantly cut them.

"If you actually look at the actual track record of government spending, government employment, Reagan is the Keynesian and Obama -- mostly because of political constraints, although a little bit of lack of conviction on the part of his own people -- has been the anti-Keynesian," Krugman said. "He's been the one who's been doing what Republicans say is the right answer."

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