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Alice Ollstein

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.

Articles by Alice

Dozens of conservative lawmakers in the House's Republican Study Committee huddled behind closed doors in the basement of the Capitol Wednesday with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss their imperiled Obamacare repeal bill—which has been lambasted by moderates and conservatives alike.

When the lawmakers emerged, they expressed confidence that the White House supports the changes they are demanding: freezing the Medicaid expansion in 2018 instead of 2020, and imposing a work requirement on low-income Americans receiving Medicaid.

"Ultimately, we were told today that we should be hopeful as far as having some of this incorporated into the bill," RSC chairman Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) (pictured) told reporters. "We're as hopeful as we've ever been."

Even as hardline conservatives, moderate Republicans, and Trump loyalists continue to come out against the bill, Walker said the changes to its Medicaid provisions would bring his 170-member group on board. The RSC includes many of the the most conservative Republicans in the House.

"The RSC in general is very close to signing off," he said. "Our ultimate goal is a unanimous vote of support."

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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is openly frustrated with the Trump administration dragging its feet on fully briefing Congress on its various Russia investigations.

This week, he put his foot down, refusing to move forward on the backlog of confirmation votes before his committee until FBI Director James Comey tells the committee what is going on.

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Tucked into the GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a multi-pronged effort to limit women's access to reproductive health services, including contraception, abortion, and maternity care. The bill bans women from using government tax credits to purchase any private insurance plan that covers abortion, discourages employers from offering insurance that covers abortion, and cuts more than $200 million dollars from Planned Parenthood over 10 years.

The result of that final provision, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office, would be "several thousand" more unwanted pregnancies, which would in turn cost the government $77 million more in Medicaid spending over the next decade.

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The Republican response to the highly-anticipated Congressional Budget Office report on the GOP health care bill—which found it would cause 24 million people to lose their health insurance over a decade—has been all over the map.

Some trumpeted the CBO's estimate that the bill would lower the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars and bring health insurance premiums down over time. Others questioned the office's credibility, calling the report incomplete, or rejecting the findings all together.

On Tuesday, the Senate's Republican leaders did a little of each.

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On Monday night, as a snowstorm bore down on Washington, D.C., Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) marched into the Capitol. In his hand he clenched a copy of the Congressional Budget Office's newly released report finding that the GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would cause 24 million people to lose their health insurance over the next decade.

"It's awful," he said of the report. "President Trump says he wants as many people covered as under Obamacare, and in that Washington Post article he said health care should be affordable. So if there's truly 24 million people [losing their coverage], of course it's a concern."

Cassidy, a former doctor, was more forthcoming than his Republican colleagues, most of whom rushed past the reporters gathered in the basement of the Capitol trying to gather their reactions to the highly anticipated CBO report.

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The Congressional Budget Office's highly anticipated analysis of the GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act dropped Monday afternoon, and the office's non-partisan research team estimated that the legislation would reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion dollars over the next 10 years.

It is one bit of good news for Republicans in a devastating report that finds tens of millions of people will lose their insurance coverage under their plan over the next decade.

The CBO under its conservative Republican director, Keith Hall (pictured), found that the savings come largely from slashing Medicaid spending, which will lead to 14 million people losing coverage. In total, the government will spend $1.2 trillion dollars less on health care under this plan.

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Press Secretary Sean Spicer accused reporters at the White House on Monday of deliberately playing up the positive aspects of the Affordable Care Act as a bill to repeal it advances in Congress.

"It makes it seem like it's all rainbows and puppies," he complained.

Spicer then disputed that the tens of millions of previously uninsured people who have gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act truly have coverage.

"At the end of the day, if you have a[n insurance] card and you're getting a subsidy but you're not getting care, you have nothing," he said, launching into a meandering critique of life under Obamacare.

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During a closed-door meeting with constituents this weekend, at which he was jeered by the crowd and called a liar, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) became the latest Senate Republican to criticize the House bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In an audio recording of the event obtained by Politico, Heller tells the gathered Nevadans that Congress "ought to embrace what’s good in the Affordable Care Act” and not scrap its protections and subsidies entirely.

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Aiming to erode public trust in the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office ahead of its report this week expected to show that the GOP's Obamacare repeal bill will cause millions of people to lose their health insurance, Republican lawmakers and Trump administration officials are rewriting the history of the CBO's analysis of the Affordable Care Act.

"If the CBO was right about Obamacare to begin with, there’d be 8 million more people on Obamacare today than there actually are," White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told ABC on Sunday. "So I love the folks at the CBO, they work really hard, they do, but sometimes we ask them to do stuff they’re not capable of doing."

On Sunday's "Meet the Press," Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price piled on. "CBO has been very adept in not providing appropriate coverage statistics," he said.

But in interviews with TPM, budget experts – including the CBO director during the conception and implementation of Obamacare – paint a very different picture.

They argue that the office's projections of how many total people would gain coverage under Obamacare and of the average cost of health insurance premiums turned out to be quite close to the eventual reality. The office missed the mark in some areas, they said, due to unpredictable developments like the Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to refuse to expand Medicaid.

"The CBO's predictions were not as accurate as we would have liked, but they were more accurate than the uninformed guesses of a lot of people at the time, and more accurate than the informed guesses of many other organizations," Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the CBO from 2009 to 2015, told TPM. "I wish we had done better, but I am proud of what we did."

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The Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is moving full steam ahead—approved by two committees this week on party line votes—despite the fact that Congress' research arm has not yet issued its report on how much the bill would cost the government and how many people could lose their health insurance if it passes.

A report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected next week, and experts at the Brookings Institute—who have performed their own analysis of the bill—predicted it will bear bad news for Republicans.

"CBO’s analysis will likely estimate that at least 15 million people will lose coverage under the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by the end of the ten-year scoring window," wrote Brookings analysts Loren Adler and Matthew Fiedler. "Estimates could be higher, but it’s is unlikely they will be significantly lower."

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