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 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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Republicans have seized on rising gas prices as a political weapon against President Obama. The White House, sensing peril in the attacks as the election gets closer, has mounted a plan to fight back. And rather than simply playing defense, officials believe they can win the messaging war, tough as that may seem, by defending Obama's record and exploiting weaknesses in the GOP energy platform.

"If drilling were the answer, we wouldn't be having this conversation, because under the president production is up," a White House official told TPM. "Our oil imports are down, and even Republicans have conceded we're in a domestic energy boom."

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Republican operatives want the party to attack President Obama on his foreign policy toward Israel, and in a Monday afternoon speech to the powerful AIPAC, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) portrayed US policy in the region as lacking in clarity. An excerpt from Cantor's speech:

[W]e have to transition from confusion to clarity in the Middle East. A major source of confusion is: Where is the leadership? Who is leading from the front with a finger pointing in the right direction rather than a finger pointing in the wind? America needs to be a compass, not a weathervane, in the Middle East.

Even many of Israel's adversaries are clamoring for clarity. They fear Iran’s efforts to foment instability and extremism in the region more than they fear Israel, as I found out on my recent visit to countries in the Gulf. They want a balance of power in the Middle East, not an unbalanced power like Iran.

America's role is not to put its hand on the scale and balance it against Israel. America's role is to put its fist on the scale to weigh down the terrorism, fanaticism and anti-Semitism of Iran and its proxies.

Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, never specifically mentioned the President in the speech, and mostly offered up a broad foreign policy vision for Israel and the Middle East.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is poised to deliver what his office bills as a "major policy address on Iran" at at AIPAC on Monday night. The speeches dovetail with the perennial GOP goal of chipping off Jewish voters from the Democratic Party.

For most observers, the biggest question about the House Republicans' forthcoming budget is how they'll handle the issue of Medicare. Will they readopt the same phase-out and privatize policy that got them into political trouble last year? Or will they, at least to some extent, scale back their vision?

But the bigger question has nothing to do with Medicare. The bigger question is whether House Republicans can pass a budget at all.

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Since it cleared a key subcommittee last week, three new House Democrats have cosponsored GOP legislation to repeal President Obama's Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel enacted in the health care reform law to scale back Medicare spending in the long run.

Reps. Mike Ross (D-AR) and Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) signed on Friday, and Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) inked his support Monday, according to the office of Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), the bill's chief sponsor.

Republicans will continue to move the IPAB repeal bill this week, and it has enough votes to pass the House. Here's the backstory on why Republicans want to eliminate the panel, and why Democrats are skittish about it.

In a speech Sunday to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), President Obama emphatically restated his commitment to protecting Israel and preventing Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon -- and, anticipating GOP attacks in the near future, he took the liberty to rebut criticisms of his foreign policy toward the Jewish state as well as Iran.

"If during this political season you hear some questions regarding my administration's support for Israel, remember that it's not backed up by the facts," Obama told the AIPAC crowd. "And remember that the US-Israel relationship is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics."

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Republican strategist Mike Murphy said Sunday on NBC's Meet The Press that the primary is alienating independent voters and that the establishment is eager to pick a nominee and move on to the general election.

After Virginia, Murphy predicted, Romney will "be in a pretty commanding place in the nomination. And on behalf of the Republican establishment, it's about damn time. We want this thing to get over, because we see those independent voters eroding as we scare the hell out of them with the histrionics of our primary."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) will address AIPAC on Monday, one day after President Obama made a speech to the American-Israeli group, according to his office.

Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, is expected to deliver his remarks at 1:00 pm ET.

Mitt Romney is facing a barrage of conservative attacks after it was revealed late Friday that he wrote a July 2009 op-ed in USA Today calling on President Obama to adopt an individual mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance, the provision that Republicans today despise and which Romney says he virulently opposes on a federal level.

In the piece, however, Romney urged Obama to "learn a thing or two" from his Massachusetts plan that contained the same mandate, and made the case for it. "First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance," Romney wrote. "Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages 'free riders' to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others."

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The Associated Press reports:

NEW YORK (AP) – The FBI is considering whether to open an investigation into allegations that followers of a New York City rabbi made illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, according to a law enforcement official.

Followers of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, an influential figure in Israel with a headquarters in Manhattan, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Grimm when he first ran for office in 2010, according to campaign records. Some donors have since said that they broke rules to donate more cash to the Republican's campaign than allowed by law.

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) recently told Roll Call's John Stanton that he contacted that FBI in the fall of 2010 that Grimm had tried to extort money from Pinto. According to the story published Friday, Weiner said he reached out to the FBI after Pinto made him aware of this early that fall.