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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

On Wednesday morning, two powerful House committees began marking up the bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act despite the fact that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet crunched the numbers on what the plan would cost or how many people would lose their health insurance if it passes.

The Republican authors of the bills refused to say this week if the number of uninsured Americans would grow or shrink under their proposals. Independent estimates of how many people would lose insurance range between two to four million and tens of millions of people. As for how much the plan would cost the federal government, Republican leaders offered no numbers—only vague assurances that it will be "fiscally responsible."

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Less than 24 hours after its unveiling, the House bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act was engulfed in a firestorm of criticism from the left, right, and center of the political spectrum.

Hardline conservatives blasted the plan as "Obamacare-lite," while more moderate Republicans fretted that the plan will not adequately protect those who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

As they tried to straddle a potentially impossible political divide, the House committee chairs pushing the bill forward presented a contradictory message: The bill both completely scraps Obamacare and protects some of its most popular provisions.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-OR) (pictured above right) listed those provisions in a press conference on Tuesday: "We are protecting those patients living with preexisting conditions under our plan," he said. "We are not returning to the days of lifetime or annual limits. And we will continue to allow young adults to remain on their parents' policies until they reach the age of 26. And we will keep our promise not to pull the rug out from anyone, including those on Medicaid."

To the consternation of conservative lawmakers, the bill also maintains the Affordable Care Act's "Cadillac Tax" on pricey employer insurance plans and its rule that health insurance plans must cover 10 "essential benefits."

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The two committee chairmen shepherding the new Obamacare repeal and replacement bill through the House bobbed and weaved when pressed by reporters Tuesday on whether their plan will provide as many people with health insurance coverage as Obamacare does today.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) held a press conference Tuesday morning to promote the American Health Care Act—a bill unveiled Monday night that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a system of tax credits to buy private insurance.

Asked directly if more or fewer people would be covered under his bill than under the Affordable Care Act, Brady said Tuesday that a more appropriate question would be: "Does it cover more people with affordable health care than today?" Brady answered neither question, instead telling reporters than in his Texas district "more people have opted out of Obamacare than are taking it, and those who have it, frankly can't use it. The deductibles are too high. The copayments are too high. It doesn't help them."

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Even though Republicans now control the White House and both chambers of Congress, that doesn't mean they will have an easy time agreeing on and implementing a plan to fund the government going forward.

Though we are still a couple weeks away from seeing the actual text of the President's budget blueprint, many controversial pieces of the plan have been revealed, including a $54 billion hike in military spending, and deep cuts to the State Department, the Environmental Projection Agency and the Coast Guard, among other departments and agencies.

Already, signs of revolt are emerging on Capitol Hill, and top budget experts warn of an array of legal and political obstacles standing in Trump's way.

Here are 5 points to keep in mind as the budget battle unfolds:

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Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

When Republican senators arrived at the Capitol on Thursday morning, they were inundated with a tidal wave of questions regarding revelations published the previous night that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with the Russian ambassador in 2016 but then said in his confirmation hearing that he did not have contact with the Russians during the 2016 campaign.

As the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate burst out of the gate accusing Sessions of perjury and demanding his resignation, Republicans fell into three camps: most gave a full-throated defense of Sessions and dismissed the accusations as a Democratic stunt; a handful called for Sessions to recuse himself from ongoing investigations of Russian meddling in U.S. politics, and a few key lawmakers said that Sessions should recuse himself only if the attorney general himself is the subject of an investigation.

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President Donald Trump's first budget proposal is full of red meat for conservatives: a massive hike in military spending paid for by deep cuts to domestic programs that are perennial targets for Republicans, such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

But one key piece of the plan has run into a buzzsaw of opposition from Republican lawmakers: a bid to slash the State Department's funding by more than a third.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) bluntly told reporters this week that a budget with such cuts could "probably not" pass the Senate, and several members of his caucus confirmed to TPM that they would oppose such a move.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told TPM his response to the proposed cuts is: "I don't agree." Asked to elaborate, McCain vehemently repeated "I don't agree" several more times.

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Additional reporting by Tierney Sneed

WASHINGTON, D.C.—For several days, Republican leaders in the House and Senate have been assuring reporters and the public that President Donald Trump would deliver a “positive” address to his first joint session of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday afternoon that he was expecting “an upbeat portrayal of what America could be with the kind of changes we are in the process of implementing.”

What Trump ultimately delivered was somewhat more subdued than the apocalyptic rhetoric of his RNC acceptance speech and inaugural address. He vowed at the outset of the speech to "deliver a message of unity and strength,” and he struck a compassionate note by expressing concern about the recent waves of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries.

But after that relatively moderate opening, Trump went on to paint a dark and often misleading portrait of a country with "dying industries," "crumbling infrastructure," a "terrible drug epidemic," "neglected inner cities," and a general "environment of lawless chaos."

It was, in short, "American carnage" all over again, though less angry.

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The House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to kill a resolution that sought to force full disclosure of President Donald Trump’s business conflicts of interest and his administration’s alleged backchannel dealings with the Russian government. All 18 Republican members of the committee voted to report the resolution "unfavorably" to the House.

The author of the resolution, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), told TPM that he and other Democrats will continue to press this issue with subsequent resolutions.

“Even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of the Trump administration and you think they’ve done nothing wrong, get this out of the way early and don’t let it fester,” he said. “And if they have done something wrong, we need to know it. It’s better for the country either way. Most of the American people want these questions answered.”

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Just hours before President Trump's first address before Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) came out against the deep cuts to the State Department proposed in the President's budget blueprint.

McConnell bluntly told reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill that a budget with such cuts could "probably not" pass the Senate.

"Just speaking for myself, I think the diplomatic portion of the federal budget is very important, and you get results there a lot cheaper than you do on the defense side," he said. "I'm not in favor of reducing what we call the '150 account' to that extent."

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For the last six years, the Justice Department has sided with the citizens and civil rights groups fighting Texas' voter ID law, which a federal judge at one point found to be intentionally discriminatory against black and Latino voters. But its position changed Monday when the department decided to drop its claim that Republican state lawmakers enacted the law to make it harder for minorities to vote.

"This signals to voters that they will not be protected under this administration," said Danielle Lang, the deputy director of voting rights at the Campaign Legal Center, which is challenging Texas' law in court.

The reversal, on the eve of a key hearing in the case, is a clear sign of the DOJ's direction under Attorney General Jeff Sessions—a longtime advocate of voter ID laws and other voting restrictions. The department signaled its intentions last week when it joined with the state of Texas to ask the court to hold off on judging the constitutionality of the law until Republican lawmakers can modify it. The court rejected this request.

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