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

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday morning on the Arizona law and whether key provisions pass constitutional muster. No clear majority emerged one way or another. It appeared possible that the court will strike down some aspects of the law while upholding others.

Arguing the case for the U.S. was Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, and for Arizona lawyer Paul Clement -- a rematch after the two faced off weeks ago before the high court on health care arguments. Clement again outshone his opponent.

Karl Rove warned Republicans that attempts to link President Obama to the ongoing Secret Service and GSA scandals would be perceived as political overreach. But so far, they haven't been able to help themselves.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) pushed full speed ahead this week, writing a letter to the White House seeking answers on whether others were somehow involved in the Secret Service prostitution scandal. Then on Tuesday he suggested on an Iowa radio station that the Colombian prostitutes at the heart of the inquiry may have been Russian spies.

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Arizona's controversial immigration measure has inspired numerous boycotts -- and on Tuesday, it provoked another, when Senate Republicans refused to show up at a hearing on the measure. The hearing took place one day before the Supreme Court begins to weigh its constitutionality, leaving Democrats to spar with the author of the measure and paint the GOP as "absent" -- literally -- on immigration reform.

The hearing comes ahead of an election in which the two parties are battling for Hispanic voters, who strongly oppose the S.B. 1070 law and who lean Democratic by a huge margin. The Democrats' hearing reflects an effort to highlight this divide, in part because they used the occasion to make an impassioned case for the DREAM Act.

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Mitt Romney lurched ever closer to the political center Monday, in a move that presages both dramatic implications on Capitol Hill and growing tensions between Romney and his GOP allies in Congress.

We've seen several signs that Romney is recalibrating for the general election in recent weeks -- he tacitly backed Democrats' equal-pay law and now articulates more widely his support for the principle behind the DREAM Act. But for the first time Monday, he waded into an ongoing legislative battle -- over student loans -- and sided with President Obama and the Democrats against House and Senate Republicans.

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Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (SD) weighed in Tuesday on Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) work-in-progress DREAM Act, which is billed as a toned down Republican alternative to the Democrats' version.

"Our nominee now, Governor Romney, will I believe in due time, engage in a discussion about how to deal with the immigration issue," Thune told TPM in the Capitol. "Whether or not that's the Rubio approach or something else, I think remains to be seen. But I do think -- I give Marco credit. I think he's been very thoughtful about how he's approaching this. We haven't seen the details yet so it's hard to make any sort of a judgement about where any of us might come down on that. But I give him great credit for proceeding and taking on what is a very difficult issue but doing it in a very thoughtful way."

Rubio says his DREAM Act will provide temporary but extendable visas to undocumented children who attend college or serve in the military. Unlike the Democrats' version it will come with no guarantee of eventual permanent residency or citizenship.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters Tuesday that he supports legislation to avert an interest rate hike on student loans, an issue that has put Mitt Romney on the side of President Obama against House Republicans, who have been wary of an extension.

"The president has come out for a one-year extension. Governor Romney's come out for a one-year extension. We're discussing it as well," McConnell said at his weekly press conference. "And I understand, as you've indicated, that the majority leader's going to bring it up afterwards. So we'll let you know. But we're in the process of discussing it among ourselves. I don't think anybody believes this interest rate ought to be allowed to rise. The question is how you pay for it and how long do you do the extension."

Student loan interest rates are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent for some 7 million students in July.

Facing strong criticism, Fox News host Steve Doocy on Tuesday morning corrected a quote by President Obama that he partially fabricated last week, conceding on air that he "did some paraphrasing."

"Last week President Obama talked about not being born with a silver spoon in his mouth. That was interpreted as a big dig at Mitt Romney," Doocy said toward the end of Fox & Friends. "When I was interviewing Governor Romney on this show I asked him about it. However, I did some paraphrasing that seemed to misquote the president. So to be clear, the president's exact quote was, 'I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth.' And I hope that clears up any confusion."

As TPM reported Sunday, Doocy added some words to an Obama quote when he last Thursday claimed he said, "Unlike some people, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth." What Obama actually said was, "Somebody gave me an education. I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth."

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Lest anyone think the Supreme Court is done playing with political dynamite this year: Next up, the Obama administration asks the justices to quash Arizona's immigration law, a measure that has sparked intense protests, boycotts and even rap songs.

The high court will hear oral arguments Wednesday on whether the state's tough law -- which permits police to check people's legal status during lawful encounters, and makes it a crime to look for work without legal status -- passes the constitutional test. Lower courts have sided with the administration and blocked its key provisions.

"This should be an easy case for the federal government," said Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA School of Law. "Under longstanding precedent, the federal government has plenary authority over immigration. Yet here Arizona has imposed its own view of how immigration law should be enforced."

The core legal question is the extent to which states are empowered to make immigration laws, a turf constitutionally reserved for the federal government. The administration argues that Arizona's law coerces it to take a harder line on undocumented immigrants. Gov. Jan Brewer's legal team frames the statute as an effort to cooperatively assist the federal government in dealing with an immigration system that is widely regarded as broken.

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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."