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

A U.S. service member in Afghanistan reportedly entered Afghan civilians' homes in the middle of the night and opened fire, killing as many as 16 of them, according to NBC News and BBC News.

NBC reports:

"It was a shooting incident involving multiple civilians wounded," NATO spokesman Captain Brockhoff said. Brockhoff would not confirm or deny the number of civilians who had been killed or injured, but he did say that the wounded were receiving treatment at NATO medical facilities.

The soldier then reportedly turned himself in to U.S. military authorities.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Sunday on CNN that what the soldier did was "absolutely wrong." He called it "very, very sad" and said "no one can condone or make any suggestion that what he did was right."

"Well of course, our hearts go out to these innocent people," Reid told Candy Crowley.

Update: U.S. officials confirm to AP that the soldier suspected of killing up to 16 Afghan civilians was an American Army service member.

Outgoing Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) -- who lost a brutal primary battle on Tuesday to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) -- vehemently criticized the Obama administration's program of targeted killings of US citizens abroad without due process, declaring it a "dangerous" violation of the Constitution that ought to meet resistance from Democrats and Republicans alike.

"Any assault on the Constitution ought to be challenged," Kucinich told TPM in a Thursday interview at his Capitol Hill office. "This is absolutely an assault on the Constitution."

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Less than 48 hours after suffering defeat in a brutal primary contest, a pensive Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) says his political career isn't necessarily over. In an interview in his Capitol Hill office, Kucinich told TPM he's "open" to new possibilities but hasn't made up his mind about what he'll do next.

Kucinich pointed out that of the 40 elections he's contested, he has won 32 of them and lost eight, including four unsuccessful bids for Congress before he finally came to Washington in 1997.

"I'm no stranger to defeat," he told me. "But defeat has never had power over me. It's never changed me. Nor has victory. So I'm at peace with where things are with respect to me. And I'm open for whatever possibilities are out there."

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All twelve female Democratic senators wrote a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Thursday asking him to halt movement on House legislation aimed at rolling back the Obama administration's contraception mandate.

The letter -- first reported by the Washington Post's Greg Sargent -- reflects an effort to force House Republicans to publicly concede defeat in the contraception wars -- the battle was effectively over when the Blunt amendment was struck down in the Senate last week.

House GOP leaders, like their Senate counterparts, are about ready to call it a day on the issue. But because there are conservative members who feel strongly about fighting to repeal the birth control rule, expect House leaders to soft-pedal their desire to move on.

Signs mounted Thursday that House Republican leaders, under pressure from their conservative members, will submit a budget that calls for cutting federal programs beneath the levels they agreed to in the bipartisan August debt limit law. Democrats warned that violating the agreement could spark a government shutdown fight later this year.

Echoing Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD), the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, told TPM that the House GOP must not go down that road.

"Look, an agreement is agreement, and they should stick to the agreement," Van Hollen said in a brief interview. "And not otherwise risk ultimately messing up the entire process, with a worst case scenario of a government shutdown. They should recognize what the risks are in violating an agreement."

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Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters Thursday that House GOP leadership is considering bringing up the Senate version of the highway bill, but will continue to work toward an approach that's more agreeable to their conservative members.

"As I told the members yesterday, the current plan is to see what the Senate can produce and to bring their bill up," Boehner said. "And in the meantime we are going to continue to have conversations with members about a longer term approach, which frankly most of our members want. But at this point in time, the plan is to bring up the Senate bill or something like it."

Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday sternly told Boehner to get behind the Senate version, which is being developed on a bipartisan basis by liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and conservative Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). The Dems' message to Boehner boiled down to this: Accept the Senate version or induce more gridlock on a measure that involves "millions" of jobs.

The House overwhelmingly passed a modest, bipartisan jobs bill on Thursday by a 390-23 margin.

The GOP-led legislation aims to loosen Securities and Exchange Commission rules in an effort to encourage small business job growth. The White House and leaders of both parties support the bill, but Democrats say its impact will be relatively small.

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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