In it, but not of it. TPM DC

This month, Republicans in Congress achieved what they declared to be a major victory: they sent an Obamacare repeal to the president’s desk as test-run for next year, when they say there will be a Republican president in office to sign it.

But there’s just one problem with that plan. The details have been scant as to what the GOP presidential candidates -- who have uniformly railed against the Affordable Care Act -- intend to enact in its place.

After five years of promises to deliver an Obamacare replacement plan -- more than 20 such promises by one count --the GOP Congress still hasn't produced. And the same mix of political perils and policy paralysis that has hamstrung the Republicans on the Hill has left the party's presidential contenders with paltry real health care proposals that are short on details and long on vague assurances. The party that has spent years avoiding grappling with the economic, political, and policy complexities of health care reform seems no closer now that it was when Obamacare first became law.

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The answer to the question of whether Ted Cruz is eligible to be president of the United States lies deep in the recesses of English political history, according to a constitutional law expert who has researched the issue.

Mary Brigid McManamon, a law professor at Widener University’s Delaware Law School, makes the case that Ted Cruz is not eligible to be president because “natural born citizen” applies only to those born within U.S. territories. She wrote a Washington Post op-ed this week arguing as such, and previously wrote a 2014 legal paper on the topic.

What is certain is that the Constitution's definition of “natural born citizen” has not been tested and remains open to interpretation. As Michael Ramsey, a former clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia, put it in a 2013 essay otherwise defending Cruz’s eligibility: “[I]t's a mystery to me why any one thinks it's an easy question.”

TPM talked with McManamon by phone Wednesday to ask her a few more questions about her theory, which she said rested on English common law stretching all the way back to 1350.

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President Obama spent much of his 2016 State of the Union addressing -- in thinly veiled language -- the Republican rhetoric in the race to replace him. But in doing so, he left out or glossed over some major Democratic policy positions, including policies that have been priority of his own administration.

Weeks after Obama signed executive orders refortifying gun laws, his biggest State of the Union statement on gun violence was visual: an empty seat in first lady Michelle Obama's viewing box to represent victims. In the speech itself gun violence was mentioned only once, when Obama was making the point that the speech wouldn't be a traditional State of the Union.

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President Obama promised a “non-traditional” State of the Union and indeed, his remarks in the U.S. Capitol sounded less like the usual laundry list of policy priorities and more like the President’s response to some of the gloom-and-doom rhetoric being bandied about on the 2016 campaign.

“I don’t want to talk just about the next year. I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond,” Obama said.

Though he didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, some of Obama’s strongest lines were geared specifically at the GOP frontrunner’s proposals -- including deporting undocumented immigrants and banning Muslim immigration -- in the name of “making America great again.”

In particular, Obama denounced the recent anti-Muslim rhetoric espoused not just by Trump but by others in the GOP field. He also rebutted claims that the economy was in decline or that the country was no longer safe from foreign threats.

Here are those and other shots he took at Trump:

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A morning of tough questioning Monday at the Supreme Court suggested public unions have an uphill battle in convincing the court not to overrule a 1977 decision that allows them to charge non-members "agency fees" -- fees that subsidize the collective bargaining that benefits all employees.

The swing justices whom union forces had hoped to bring to their side seemed skeptical, if not hostile, to their arguments. The best alternative liberals could put forward is that at the very least more fact-finding in the case is needed, considering what a major deal upending Supreme Court precedent is.

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You can learn a lot about the upcoming Supreme Court case that threatens to cripple public unions by looking at who is behind it.

Friedrichs v. California Teacher’s Association is being brought, in name, by Rebecca Friedrichs, a California elementary school teacher who objects to a state law requiring her and other public employees to pay a portion of union dues even though they are not union members.

But behind her in the case is a coalition of legal forces known for using the court to attack progressive laws. The case touches upon all sorts of conservative pet causes including wages, school voucher programs and health care benefits. Many of the players in this case have been involved in a broader pattern of pushing conservative causes through the judicial system when their efforts have failed in the political process.

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Update: The House passed the legislation to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood by a 240-181 vote Wednesday evening.

After half-a-decade worth of votes to repeal Obamacare, congressional Republicans will finally send a bill that guts the President's signature health care reform to the Oval Office, where President Obama is sure to veto it.

The House is set to vote Wednesday on an Obamacare repeal bill that will take apart some key aspects of the Affordable Care Act, such as the individual and employer mandates. The House passed a similar bill last year. But once it reached the Senate, Republicans expanded its parameters -- including amendments that unravel the Medicaid expansion and target the marketplace subsidies -- as conservatives said the initial legislation didn't go far enough. Having passed narrowly in the Senate, it is now back in the House, where it kicks off Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-WI) 2016 agenda "about ideas and not about distractions."

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The 2014 showdown at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada has found its 2016 sequel, with two of his sons among the anti-government extremists taking over a federal wildlife center in Oregon to protest the government’s public land policies.

The situation presents a complicated challenge for authorities seeking to end the standoff peacefully but armed militia members itching for a confrontation. But some observers caution that once it is settled -- however it is ultimately resolved -- those involved must face consequences, unlike Bundy himself, who was never sanctioned for his armed showdown with the government and still owes some $1 million in disputed public grazing fees that triggered the initial incident.

“These folks are militant extremists and they need to be treated as such,” Jessica Goad -- advocacy director at the Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group which has monitored the rise of anti-government groups -- told TPM. “They need to be brought to justice in order for this thing not to keep occurring in the future.”

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It's been two days since roughly a dozen armed men took over an unoccupied headquarters building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon's vast eastern desert near the small town of Burns.

It started as a planned protest in Burns over the impending imprisonment of local father-and-son ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond who were convicted of starting fires on public lands. But it quickly escalated into a full-on takeover of the federal facility 30 miles away with the armed group hunkering down and refusing to leave.

The Hammonds quickly distanced themselves from the brigade that includes two sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a folk hero of sorts among western anti-government types after his standoff with the federal government in 2014.

Who exactly are these men? The exact number and identities of all the militia members at Malheur is not known, but here's a rundown on what is known about the men identified so far who are holed up at the wildlife refuge.

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