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

They'll have to make do. But conservative House Republicans are having a hard time finding anything praiseworthy to say about their party's presumptive presidential nominee.

Fourteen GOP conservatives sat together Tuesday on a Capitol Hill panel to field questions from a few dozen reporters and other attendees about the political issues of the day. When asked, predictably, to provide their thoughts about Mitt Romney, they turned decidedly lukewarm.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) summed up the conservative mood with a joke that won laughter from the audience, but might have hit too close to home for many in the GOP.

"Whether you're liberal, whether you're very conservative," he said, "you ought to be excited [about Romney] because he's been on your side at one time or another."

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All the Senate Republicans -- and even some Democrats -- who've attacked President Obama for refusing to embrace the storied Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan in 2010 may end up with a chance to replace their preening with recorded votes.

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced Tuesday that he will introduce the framework as a blueprint for the upper-chamber's official budget resolution -- a response to Republicans who for years have hectored him and his party for failing to advance a plan with a vision for the country's future.

At a Capitol press briefing, Conrad downplayed expectations of the plan passing anytime soon, pointing out that it will take time for the fiscal commission report, issued in late 2010, to be adjusted for economic and policy developments that have occurred in the intervening months. He also expressed doubt that any long-term budget can be agreed to in the polarized 112th Congress.

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Rep. Barney Frank told TPM Tuesday morning that the National Republican Congressional Committee is "twisting my words" by citing a recent interview to say Frank believes the Affordable Care Act is a "disaster."

"No, I have no issue with the subject matter or the bill itself," Frank said. "I was just commenting on the politics. And I was saying it was a mistake to have done it first." He was arguing that Democrats should have prioritized financial reform, Frank insisted -- which was more popular, and for which which Frank was the point person -- before moving on to health care.

In the interview with New York magazine, Frank said, "I think we paid a terrible price for health care. I would not have pushed it as hard. As a matter of fact, after Scott Brown won, I suggested going back. I would have started with financial reform but certainly not health care."

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Senate Republicans defeated a motion to take up Buffett Rule legislation the day before taxes are due.

Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill late Monday. The final party-line vote was 51 in favor, 45 against, with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) breaking ranks with their leadership. The sharp contrast promises to be a defining issue in the presidential election this November.

The principle behind the rule -- that people making over $1 million a year should pay at least 30 percent in taxes -- was championed by President Obama in his State of the Union this year and subsequently written into legislation by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The rule includes nuances and exceptions aimed at minimizing adverse incentives. It's expected to raise tax receipts by $47 billion over 10 years, although Democrats say that figure would be at least $160 billion if the Bush tax cuts are extended.

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Not long ago, Mitt Romney was bashing President Obama for a "hot mic" moment. Now, Democrats are making hay out of Mitt Romney's overheard private comments at a fundraiser, in which he offered up some details about tax loopholes he'll close and vowed to take the hatchet to federal departments.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer on Monday called the remarks "a rare moment of candor where he gave his unvarnished view" that helped "pull back the curtain" on his policies which have largely remained a secret.

On a conference call with reporters hosted by the DNC, Schumer noted that the tax promises Romney made during a high-dollar fundraiser don't add up, and argued that "the only way" the ex-governor can pay for his high-end tax cuts is to "clobber" the middle class with damaging cuts to federal departments like education and housing.

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Mitt Romney's remarks at a private fundraiser Sunday, overheard by two campaign reporters, reveal that, even when confiding in well-heeled supporters, his tax plan doesn't add up.

At a Palm Beach, Fla. estate, Romney told big-money donors he'll "probably eliminate for high-income people" the mortgage interest deduction on second homes, as well as deductions for state income and property taxes. "By virtue of doing that, we'll get the same tax revenue, but we'll have lower rates," he said, in remarks overheard by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

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The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a statement of administration policy voicing "strong support" for the Buffett Rule legislation the Senate is currently debating and set to hold a cloture vote on late Monday.

OMB said:

The Administration believes that S. 2230 would not only make the Nation's tax system more fair, but will also help the economy by closing inefficient tax shelters and loopholes and by allowing the Nation to continue making the vital investments that strengthen the economy and provide economic security for middle class families. All Americans are being asked to come together to make the sort of shared sacrifices that will allow the Nation to continue making crucial investments in areas that will help the economy grow and create jobs, such as education, research, and infrastructure. In such a time, the Administration believes that continuing to allow some of the wealthiest Americans to use special tax breaks to avoid paying their fair share simply cannot be justified.

Republicans are expected to successfully block cloture, which requires 60 senators. Democrats say they'll continue pushing the rule whether or not it passes today.

In anticipation of Republicans filibustering a cloture vote late Monday, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) vowed to continue pushing the "Buffett Rule" until it passes.

"We're going to come back to this issue repeatedly," said Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat. "If you keep at these issues … as pressure mounts on the other side, they often are willing to go along. And that gets truer as you get closer and closer to election day."

Whitehouse, the sponsor of the legislation, said he'll "work hard" to make sure the principle -- which requires people making above $1 million per year pay at least 30 percent in taxes -- makes it into any tax reform legislation Congress takes up.

Trayvon Martin's death may have opened a nationwide dialogue about the wisdom of lax gun laws. But that hasn't slowed down the National Rifle Association. The absolutist Second Amendment group remains firmly on offense, representing a movement that has crushed its political adversaries so thoroughly that even tragic tales can't slow its juggernaut.

At its annual convention in St. Louis, Mo. this weekend, NRA's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, decried the "sensational reporting from Florida," referring to stories about Martin, an unarmed teenager recently who was shot to death in late February. NRA Executive Director Chris Cox defended the state's "stand your ground" law that may ultimately let shooter George Zimmerman off the hook, declaring, "Castle doctrine can literally save your life."

These are the words of an aggressive, well-funded lobby that is turning gun lovers' wildest dreams into reality. Indeed, recent high-profile shootings made possible by lax guns laws -- including one that almost killed former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- have failed to arrest the two-decade-long trend, boosted by a pliant Republican Party, a solid Supreme Court majority and a Democratic Party that has mostly abandoned the gun-control cause.

Despite four years of the NRA crowing about the dangers Barack Obama presents to the Second Amendment, his presidency has been remarkably friendly to the pro-gun cause, and persisting fears to the contrary have inspired a golden era of gun rights in the states.

Here are highlights of pro-gun victories since 2009:

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On tax week, Democrats and Republicans return to Washington gearing up for battle over dueling tax proposals. The separate votes this week will highlight a fundamental divide between the two parties, one that promises to define the choice in the 2012 election.

The Republican-led House is set to take up legislation, spearheaded by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, that lets businesses with fewer than 500 employees deduct as much as 20 percent of their 2012 business income. The bill is projected to cost $46 billion, and the tax benefits are tilted toward high earners, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Across the Capitol, the Democratic-led Senate is poised to vote Monday on "Buffett Rule" legislation that requires millionaires and billionaires to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. The measure is projected to raise $47 billion over 10 years if the Bush tax cuts expire; Democrats say that number rises to $160 billion under current policy.

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