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 White House and Democrats are upping their rhetoric against the GOP after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) demanded dollar-for-dollar budget savings before raising the debt ceiling again.

In Wednesday's briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama won't accept any ultimatums on raising the debt ceiling that would "recreate the self-inflicted political wounds that nearly collapsed the economy last summer."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD), the Dems' top budget man, echoed the charge Wednesday.

"Republicans have rejected the balanced approach that every bipartisan group has proposed, and now the Speaker of the House is out there again creating a self-inflicted wound on the economy," he told Bloomberg TV. "This is a manufactured crisis, just like it was last August, but it is not harmless."


With a vote in the House scheduled Wednesday on the Violence Against Women Act, House Republicans are taking steps to ease the political blowback they have been getting on the issue, but Democrats and advocacy groups fret that the new proposals from the House GOP would still be a step backward.

The weeks-long skirmish over the VAWA, which has already passed the Senate, is a high-stakes battle for women voters in an election, as Democrats seek to hold their sizable polling advantage with women and Republicans try to blunt that edge.

Late Tuesday, the White House threatened to veto the House GOP's version, warning that it would "undermine the core principles" of the act.

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During a meeting Wednesday, President Obama told House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) that he wants to raise the debt ceiling when it comes up without any strings attached, Boehner's office said, adding that the Speaker told him that won't happen.

The full readout from Boehner's office:

The Speaker participated in a friendly lunch meeting today with the President and other congressional leaders. The President began the meeting by laying out some of his policy goals, including his “to-do list” for Congress. The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing other issues, including the next debt limit increase and the looming expiration of current tax rates. In a discussion of the debt limit, the Speaker – who has warned that the growing debt is hurting U.S. job creation – asked the President if he is proposing that Congress pass an increase that does not include any spending cuts to help reduce the deficit. The President said, “yes.” The Speaker told the President, “as long as I’m around here, I’m not going to allow a debt ceiling increase without doing something serious about the debt.” The Speaker also asked the President for his plans to deal with the largest tax increase in American history, which will mean tax hikes on small businesses, and the devastating cuts poised to hit our military, both scheduled to take effect at the end of the year. The Speaker pressed the President to approve the job-creating Keystone pipeline energy project.  The Speaker also asked the President to encourage the Attorney General to provide the information Congressional investigators have sought about the Fast and Furious operation.  The Speaker was very pleased with the sandwiches served.

Senate Republicans quickly united behind House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Tuesday after he telegraphed his intention to use the debt limit as leverage to avoid a scheduled tax increase. Democrats balked at his demand that raising the debt ceiling -- which is set to max out this December -- be paired dollar-for-dollar with spending "cuts and reforms." The widening rift foreshadows another self-inflicted battle, the likes of which nearly collapsed the U.S. economy last fall.

"A request of the President to ask us to raise the debt ceiling ought to generate a significant response to deal with the problem of deficit and debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told a handful of reporters Tuesday afternoon in the Capitol.

In a Tuesday speech, Boehner said, "I will again insist on my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase" -- something his conference did last summer. Further hinting at chaos, he scoffed at the idea of raising taxes, even as Democrats insist they won't agree to another major debt-reduction deal that excludes new revenues.

McConnell wasn't the only Republican senator who backed up Boehner's stance.

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The White House on Tuesday issued a veto threat to the House Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act.

"The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 4970, a bill that would undermine the core principles of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)," reads a statement from the Office of Management and Budget. OMB griped about provisions that, unlike the Senate-passed version, exclude protections for Native Americans and LGBT domestic violence and undocumented immigrants.

More from the OMB statement:

H.R. 4970 also takes direct aim at immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault by removing critical protections currently in law.  H.R. 4970 allows abusers to be notified when a victim files a VAWA self-petition for relief, and it eliminates the path to citizenship for U visa holders – victims of serious crimes such as torture, rape, and domestic violence – who are cooperating with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of these crimes.  These proposals senselessly remove existing legal protections, undermine VAWA's core purpose of protecting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, frustrate important law enforcement objectives, and jeopardize victims by placing them directly in harm's way.

The Administration urges the House to find common ground with the bipartisan Senate-passed bill and consider and pass legislation that will protect all victims.  H.R. 4970 rolls back existing law and removes long-standing protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault – crimes that predominately affect women.  If the President is presented with H.R. 4970, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

Retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said Tuesday that she supports Mitt Romney for president.

"I haven't said anything formally but I am going to support Mitt Romney," she told TPM in the Capitol.

In a statement to TPM, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of the Democratic leadership, reacted to House Speaker John Boehner's demand that the next debt limit increase be paired with dollar-for-dollar "cuts and reforms."

“Republicans have spent the last year running away from the deal we made to avoid the last artificial crisis they created, so I don't know why the Speaker is already laying the groundwork for another one," Murray told TPM. "Apparently one Tea Party credit downgrade isn’t enough for House Republicans."

This week Republicans will attempt to move the national political conversation back to a familiar theme with a series of attacks on President Obama over the national debt. The GOP released a web video Monday bashing his "broken promises" on the deficit and previewed a major speech Tuesday by likely presidential nominee Mitt Romney on the issue.

Divorced from context, the numbers are uncomfortable for the President and are ready-made for pointed partisan attacks. Under Obama's watch the national debt has risen from roughly $10 trillion to $15 trillion, a record high. But to what extent are his decisions while in office to blame? The answer: very little. The vast bulk of the debt is the result of policies enacted during the Bush administration coupled with automatic increases in federal spending and decreases in tax revenue triggered by the economic downturn.

Those are economic facts of life known to experts but that often gets lost in the political debate (and which Obama's opponents are willing to obscure). So with the GOP's push to return the deficit to the center of the political conversation, here's quick reminder of the basic facts that you may have forgotten.

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The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is set to mark up legislation on Wednesday that would ensure equal federal employee benefits for same-sex couples in domestic partnerships.

The bill -- S. 1910: Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act -- is sponsored by the committee's chairman, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), its ranking member, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and 21 other Democrats.

"The Senator expects this bipartisan bill to pass out of committee," a Lieberman aide told TPM in an email Monday.

The markup dovetails a conversation about gay rights sparked by President Obama's newfound support for same-sex marriage, which he announced last Wednesday. Republicans have refrained from making hay of the issue, and at least one respected GOP pollster warns that support for gay rights is rising at an accelerating rate.

According to a summary by Lieberman, "Under the bill, same-sex domestic partners of federal employees living together in a committed relationship would be eligible for health benefits, long-term care, Family and Medical Leave, and federal retirement benefits, among others."

A Senate Democratic aide tells TPM that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would be happy to work with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on his scaled-back DREAM Act, which he is preparing to release.

"Senator Reid is very open to working with Senator Rubio on immigration reform but as he said yesterday, we need to see a bill," the aide said Monday. "Senator Rubio's problem isn't the Senate. Senate leadership are ready to work with Senator Rubio to move forward on immigration reform. The question is, 'are John Boehner and Lamar Smith willing to do this'?"

As Reid did on Sunday, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the No. 2 and No. 3 Democrats, have also indicated they'd be willing to work with Rubio on his DREAM Act alternative, but want to see legislative language.

The Republican senator is angling to blame Dems for the likely failure of his proposal.