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

Mitt Romney is facing a barrage of conservative attacks after it was revealed late Friday that he wrote a July 2009 op-ed in USA Today calling on President Obama to adopt an individual mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance, the provision that Republicans today despise and which Romney says he virulently opposes on a federal level.

In the piece, however, Romney urged Obama to "learn a thing or two" from his Massachusetts plan that contained the same mandate, and made the case for it. "First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance," Romney wrote. "Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages 'free riders' to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others."

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The Associated Press reports:

NEW YORK (AP) – The FBI is considering whether to open an investigation into allegations that followers of a New York City rabbi made illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, according to a law enforcement official.

Followers of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, an influential figure in Israel with a headquarters in Manhattan, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Grimm when he first ran for office in 2010, according to campaign records. Some donors have since said that they broke rules to donate more cash to the Republican's campaign than allowed by law.

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) recently told Roll Call's John Stanton that he contacted that FBI in the fall of 2010 that Grimm had tried to extort money from Pinto. According to the story published Friday, Weiner said he reached out to the FBI after Pinto made him aware of this early that fall.

Appearing Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press," DNC chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz pressed the Democrats' message that the GOP push to roll back the Obama administration's birth control mandate amounts to forcing a woman to surrender her health care decisions to her boss.

"Republicans actually want to go much farther than just saying women shouldn't have access to contraception," Wasserman Schultz said. "They want to say that bosses should be able to decide what kind of access to health care women should have."

She criticized the GOP's Blunt amendment that would permit employers to omit health insurance coverage of contraception as well as other health care services that they have a moral objection to. The measure narrowly failed in the Senate last week, but GOP leaders have vowed to keep up the fight.

On ABC's This Week, conservative commentator Peggy Noonan strongly denounced Rush Limbaugh's defamatory remarks about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke.

"What Rush Limbaugh said was crude, rude, even piggish, it was just unacceptable, he ought to be called on it," Noonan said Sunday. "I'm glad he has apologized. I guess there will be a debate now about the nature of the apology. But what he said was also destructive."

She added: "It confused the issue. It played into this trope that the Republicans have a war on women. No, they don't, but he made it look they that way. It confused the larger issue which is the real issue, which is 'Obamacare,' and its incursions against religious freedoms, which is a serious issue. It was not about this young lady at Georgetown."

One day after Rush Limbaugh apologized for smearing Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) repudiated the radio host's remarks calling her a "slut."

"You know David, Rush Limbaugh has apologized," Cantor said Sunday on NBC's Meet The Press. "I don't condone that language in any arena, including the political arena..."

Host David Gregory interrupted to ask, "You think he was dead wrong."

"It was -- yes, it was insulting, and Rush has said as much."

President Obama told an AIPAC crowd Sunday that there is "too much loose talk of war" with Iran, and that that kind of "bluster" will not advance Israel's or America's security interests.

An excerpt from his speech:

Moving forward, I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues; the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world. Already there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend upon to fund their nuclear program.  For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster; now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built. Now is the time to heed that timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: speak softly, but carry a big stick.  As we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve, and that our coordination with Israel will continue.

Obama said all options remain on the table, including military force, but the priority should be a diplomatic and economic effort to isolate Iran, monitor its nuclear program, and impose sanctions to prevent the nation from building a weapon.

Newt Gingrich claimed Sunday that President Obama wants gas prices to rise to $8 or $9 dollars.

This president and his secretary of anti-energy, Dr. Chu, have as a goal getting us to pay European-level prices of $8 or $9. Dr. Chu was clear about that before he became secretary. He wants us to get to be a European-level price structure of $8 or $9 a gallon," Gingrich said on ABC's This Week. "He said this week, in testifying in the House, he has no intention of trying to lower the price of oil or the price of gasoline. The American people on the other hand would much rather pay $2.50 and be independent of Saudi Arabia than be where we are today."

Gingrich didn't clearly explain why the President would want that to happen.

President Obama told an AIPAC crowd Sunday that he remains deeply committed to preventing Iran from buildling a nuclear weapon, describing war as a last resort but declaraing that military force remains an option.

"When it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say," Obama said. "That includes all elements of American power. A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort to impose crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency."

He added: "For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster; now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built. Now is the time to heed that timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: speak softly, but carry a big stick."

President Obama on Sunday emphasized to an AIPAC crowd that he has consistently stood by Israel and will continue doing so, despite the political attacks against his foreign policy to the Jewish state.

From his speech:

And because of AIPAC’s effectiveness in carrying out its mission, you can expect that over the next few days, you will hear many fine words from elected officials describing their commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship. But as you examine my commitment, you don’t just have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds. Because over the last three years, as President of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture – at every fork in the road – we have been there for Israel. Every single time. 

Four years ago, I stood before you and said that “Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.” That belief has guided my actions as President. The fact is, my Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust. Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every year. We are investing in new capabilities. We’re providing Israel with more advanced technology – the type of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies. And make no mistake: we will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge – because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. ...

Just as we’ve been there with our security assistance, we have been there through our diplomacy. When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it. When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them. When the Durban conference was commemorated, we boycotted it, and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism. When one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them. When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened to help save them. When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them. And whenever an effort is made to de-legitimize the state of Israel, my Administration has opposed them. So there should not be a shred of doubt by now: when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.

Which is why, if during this political season you hear some question my Administration’s support for Israel, remember that it’s not backed up by the facts. And remember that the U.S.-Israel relationship is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics. America’s national security is too important. Israel’s security is too important. 

Obama added that he remains committed to seeking peace between Israel and Palestine. "I believe that peace with the Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s founding values – because of our shared belief in self-determination; and because Israel’s place as a Jewish and democratic state must be protected," he said.

President Obama announced in a speech Sunday that he will award Israeli President and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres the presidential Medal of Freedom later this spring.

Addressing the American-Israeli group AIPAC, Obama made a stirring tribute to Peres's life work.

Shimon was born a world away from here, in a shtetl in what was then Poland, a few years after the end of the first World War. But his heart was always in Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish people, and when he was just a boy he made his journey across land and sea – towards home.

In his life, he has fought for Israel’s independence, and he has fought for peace and security. As a member of the Haganah and a Member of the Knesset; as a Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs; as a Prime Minister and as a President – Shimon helped build the nation that thrives today: the Jewish state of Israel. But beyond these extraordinary achievements, he has also been a powerful moral voice that reminds us that right makes might – not the other way around.

Shimon once described the story of the Jewish people by saying it proved that, “slings, arrows and gas chambers can annihilate man, but cannot destroy human values, dignity, and freedom.” He has lived those values. He has taught us to ask more of ourselves, and to empathize more with our fellow human beings. I am grateful for his life’s work and his moral example, and I am proud to announce that later this Spring, I will invite Shimon Peres to the White House to present him with America’s highest civilian honor – the presidential Medal of Freedom.