In it, but not of it. TPM DC

As concerns escalate over the GOP’s plans to repeal Obamacare, and what it means for the millions with pre-existing conditions whose coverage has been guaranteed by the law, Republicans have pointed to so-called high-risk pools, as if they were magic bullet of sorts for covering seriously sick individuals.

However, using high-risk pools as a substitute for the Affordable Care Act would cost a boatload of money, health care policy experts tell TPM, and when states implemented it in the past, it was often consumers who were left picking up the tab or left out of the system entirely.

“It’s better than nothing, to help some people,” said Henry Aaron, a senior fellow in the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, “but it’s a massive step backward from the Affordable Care Act.

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Earlier this week, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) did something few Republicans have dared to do since the election: go into some detail of how he would like to see lawmakers go about transitioning into a replacement for an Affordable Care Act.

His vision, which he outlined in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, is earning measured praise from some health care policy experts for at least acknowledging that Republicans may have to keep some aspects of Obamacare alive while they work on an alternative to avoid causing major chaos to the individual market.

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Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) is having conversations with "four or five" Democrats he hopes will help him work toward a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, but he said that Democrats are still waiting to see if Republicans will get their act together before signing on.

"We have to show that we have our act together before they're going to risk it," Cassidy told reporters. "I'm okay with that."

Cassidy said he didn't know if other colleagues were trying to reach across the aisle at this point.

"I want this to be an American solution, not a Republican solution," he said. "I say that not rhetorically, but the only major social programs that have worked in our country have been bipartisan, and we need this to be bipartisan."

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Former Attorney General Eric Holder highlighted his plans to focus on redistricting reform in the post Obama-era, with remarks Thursday marking the the launch of the political group he will lead.

“Gerrymandering has always been part of the political process, but what we are seeing is gerrymandering on steroids and I think that’s the thing that we are in the process of trying to combat,” he said Thursday during a Q&A at the left-leaning think tank, Center for American Progress.

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Retired Gen. James Mattis offered unqualified support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during his Thursday Senate confirmation hearing to serve as Defense Secretary, and accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to break the alliance, which has served as the bedrock of American and European security since 1949.

Mattis was careful not to disparage Donald Trump as senators repeatedly pressed him to answer for the President-elect’s threats to only ensure U.S. protection for NATO allies who fulfilled their financial obligations under the treaty.

The retired general vowed to stand behind NATO “100 percent” when asked by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) how Trump would respond if some member countries don’t “pony up” financial dues.

He called the treaty “vital to our security,” and said he was “confident” that Trump expected his national security team to “live up to our word” in Article 5 of the treaty, which enshrines collective defense.

“My view is that nations with allies thrive and nations without allies don't,” he said earlier in the hearing in response to a question by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) about his support for the alliance.

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Ben Carson, Trump's pick for HUD Secretary, refused to say that Trump and his family wouldn't profit from HUD.

In a tough line of questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Carson said he was going to let "morals" dictate his decision making process not favors, but that didn't exactly eliminate the opportunity for Trump to benefit.

"Can you just assure us that one dollar with go to benefit the president elect or his family?" Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) began her line of questioning with Carson.

Warren– who has been a leading voice on Capitol Hill to force President-elect Trump to divest from his business interests– was making a point.

"It will not be my intention," Carson tried to respond. "I will manage things in a way that benefits the American people.That is going to be the goal."

Carson, however, said that if the program is good enough, he wouldn't mind that Trump's family was profiting.

"If there happens to be an extraordinarily good program that is working for millions of people and it turns out that someone that you targeted is going to gain $10 from it, am I going to say 'no the rest of you Americans can't have it? ' No, I think probably logic and common sense would be the best way," Carson said.

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The Donald Trump who took questions from reporters Tuesday in his first press conference as President-elect was the same combative, short-tempered figure the American public saw on the 2016 campaign trail, down to the red power tie.

The President-elect personally dressed-down a CNN reporter in scathing terms. He limited his comments on what a replacement plan for Obamacare would look like to a vague promise to “repeal and replace” the healthcare law “essentially simultaneously.” His responses were cheered on enthusiastically by a small group of staffers.

In short, two months after winning the White House in a historic upset and nine days out from Inauguration Day, Trump appeared no closer to adhering to the norms that have traditionally regulated the office he is poised to assume.

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