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 the upcoming Arizona immigration law Supreme Court case, President Obama will need the votes of four justices to achieve victory and invalidate its key provisions.

Why not five? Because Justice Elena Kagan, who was the administration's Solicitor General when the lawsuit was filed, has recused herself. That leaves eight justices to hear the case. And the rules are that a hypothetical 4-4 tie would affirm the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' holding that major parts of the law are unconstitutional.

A 4-4 tie would mean the ruling does not apply to similar laws in other states, however, and would leave open the possibility of future lawsuits to settle the larger constitutional questions.

So, how does the math look now?

"The government can count on the votes of [Justices] Sotomayor, Breyer, and Ginsburg. [Justice] Thomas, who has argued against implied preemption in the past, is likely to side with Arizona," said Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA School of Law. "That leaves [Justices] Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, and Alito in play."

The Washington Post has corrected its article that included an apparently fabricated quote by President Obama.

The initial version of the article quoted Obama as saying, “unlike some people, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth." TPM reported earlier today that the first three words were not spoken by Obama -- they were apparently concocted by Steve Doocy of Fox News, who portrayed the remark as a jab against Mitt Romney. Those three words have been removed from the Post article.

The updated Post article includes this note at the top: "An earlier version of this post incorrectly quoted President Obama’s reference to not being born with a silver spoon in his mouth. This version has been corrected."

In a recent campaign-trail speech, President Obama delivered a line that was widely construed as a jab at Mitt Romney. But whether it was a direct jab at Romney was at least arguable until a Fox News host pumped it up with three additional words that Obama never said.

"Somebody gave me an education," the President said last Wednesday in a Elyria, Ohio speech, discussing equality of opportunity. "I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn't. But somebody gave us a chance -- just like these folks up here are looking for a chance."

The "silver spoon" comment in the context of the speech seemed to be a swipe against Romney, whose father George Romney was the top executive of a major car company and a former governor of Michigan. But the President was able to maintain plausible deniability until Steve Doocy of Fox News came along. While interviewing Romney on live TV Thursday, Doocy quoted Obama as saying, "Unlike some people, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth."

But Obama never prefaced his statement with the words "unlike some people," as evident in the video of the speech (9:22 minute mark). The words do not appear in the official transcript either.

Read More →

President Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod pushed back Sunday on Republicans for highlighting the lack of comprehensive immigration reform as a failed Obama promise. The president's ongoing squabble with the GOP on this issue is indicative of how the two camps are trying to court Hispanic voters ahead of the election.

"To say because you have an implacable group of Republicans in the Congress who simply aren't to let that move, that the president hasn't kept his promise, is a little bit disingenuous," Axelrod said on CNN's State of the Union. "The president has tried to get [immigration reform], he has initiated those actions. I was in the room when he called together Republicans and Democrats who have been active for immigration reform in the past. ... And the president said I will work with you to get this done. Not one of those Republicans was willing to stand up and work with him to pass the bill."

Hispanic voters are upset that Obama didn't push harder for immigration reform in his first two years, when he had large Democratic majorities. But they're more vexed with Republicans, who have used their clout in Congress to thwart multiple efforts by Democrats to advance the cause. Now, heading into a presidential election with a sizable deficit among Hispanic voters, a key part of the GOP's -- and Mitt Romney's -- damage-control strategy is to obscure their own role and instead blame Obama.

Read More →

The New York Times "needs to offer an aggressive look" at President Obama's record and promises as the 2012 election nears, the Times' public editor Arthur Brisbane writes in a new column, chiding the paper for having "basked" in Obama's 2008 election.

"Now, though, the general election season is on, and The Times needs to offer an aggressive look at the president’s record, policy promises and campaign operation to answer the question: Who is the real Barack Obama?" Brisbane wrote. "Many critics view The Times as constitutionally unable to address the election in an unbiased fashion. Like a lot of America, it basked a bit in the warm glow of Mr. Obama’s election in 2008."

Brisbane lamented that "a strong current of skepticism holds that the paper skews left," one that's "exacerbated by collateral factors — for example, political views that creep into nonpolitical coverage." His column expressed considerable sympathy along with some skepticism toward longstanding conservative criticisms of the Times, although he argued that that perception can be overcome.

"The warm afterglow of Mr. Obama’s election," he wrote, "the collateral effects of liberal-minded feature writers — these can be overcome by hard-nosed, unbiased political reporting now."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) agreed on ABC's This Week Sunday that the Secret Service needs more women, and each suggested that it would make incidents like the prostitution scandal in Colombia would be less likely to happen.

"I can't help but wonder if there'd been more women as part of that detail if this ever would have happened," Collins said.

"We agree on this. If there were more agents on the ground, maybe we would not have had this," Maloney said. “I can't help but keep asking this question: where are the women? We probably need to diversify the Secret Service and have more minorities and more women."

Maloney said just 11 percent of Secret Service agents are women.

Both praised the leadership of Paula Reid, who heads up Secret Service details in Latin America, for her work in dealing with the scandal.

On CNN's State of the Union Sunday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) discussed the version of the DREAM Act he's in the midst of crafting, and explained that "it allows you to get an immigrant visa through one of the existing visa programs."

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant confirmed to TPM that the senator was referring to a non-immigrant visa, not an immigrant visa.

The distinction is important because an "immigrant visa" is defined by the U.S. government as permanent residency that essentially guarantees citizenship after several years. A "non-immigrant visa" provides temporary legal residency, after which the recipient can seek options for permanent status.

The Democrats' DREAM Act entails the former; Rubio's bill entails the latter.

Conant didn't immediately return a follow-up on which visa category the bill would tap.

On Fox News Sunday, Mitch Daniels downplayed the prospect that he may be Mitt Romney's vice presidential nominee. Host Chris Wallace asked if his family would be warmer about that possibility than they were of running for president.

"We haven't had the conversation and I don't expect to have it," Daniels said. "You know a lot went into that decision not to run [for president]. Very specifically that I promsied the people of my state eight full years, and I like living up to that commitment, showing that it was real. So no, I don't -- I think this is a hypothetical question that will probably stay that way."

Pressed whether he'd accept VP if Romney offered, Daniels said, "I think I would demand reconsideration and send Mr. Romney a list of people I think could suit better." He declined to list any names but said "there's a lot of talent in the Republican Party" and Romney "has a wide range of people to pick from."

Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Mitt Romney supporter who has been rumored as a potential vice presidential pick, says the candidate ought not to make targeted appeals to women and Hispanic voters, but instead can win them over by speaking the "language of unity."

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace pressed Daniels twice on how Romney can appeal specifically to those groups, given President Obama's strong advantage with them and the problematic policy positions Romney has taken regarding their interests.

"I don't think he has to at all," Daniels responded. "I think that he gives away nothing here with regard to the president, who has been very duplicitous sometimes on this very same subject. But I think he's got to speak the language, honestly, not not of narrow broadcasting -- narrowcasting, let's say -- to individual groups, as much as the language of unity that talks about the issues that unite us all, the threats that menace us all, and try to being Americans together."

Retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told Fox News Sunday that he won't endorse in the 2012 presidential election.

"I'm going to try something different this year. I'm going to try to stay out of this one," he said with a laugh. "I'm enjoying not being involved in the nastiness of campaigning in America these days."

Lieberman was Al Gore's running mate in 2000, flipped to independent in 2006 and supported John McCain for president in 2008.