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

As the White House and GOP leaders scramble to win back several prominent defectors from their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to the Senate floor Wednesday morning to warn wavering House members not to stake their reputations on a bill unlikely to ever to reach the President’s desk.

“Even if the new version of Trumpcare passes the House—we hope it doesn’t—its chances for survival in the Senate are small,” he said. “So to my moderate Republican colleagues in the House, I ask, why would you risk a yes vote for a bill that is devastating to your constituents and has virtually a minuscule chance, probably no chance of becoming law?”

Schumer also criticized both the policy and process behind the American Health Care Act, which he repeatedly branded “Trumpcare,” saying a new amendment drafted Tuesday night will do little to solve the basic problems at the heart of the legislation.

“The significant changes House Republicans are proposing to the bill would still cause premiums and deductibles to rise, would still jack up the costs on low-income and older Americans, and most importantly, it doesn’t change a thing about the 24 million fewer Americans who would get health care,” Schumer said. “Second, it’s unwise, irresponsible to rush through a brand-new bill without a new [Congressional Budget Office] score, without committee hearings, without any debate on the floor of the House.”

Schumer noted that without an analysis from the non-partisan CBO, which calculates the impact of legislation on the federal deficit, it is far from certain that the bill can pass the Senate on a simple majority vote under the reconciliation rules. The CBO reported in March that the original GOP health care bill would reduce the deficit by more than $300 billion dollars over a decade. But lawmakers have made several major changes to the bill since then, and are not seeking an updated score.

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President Donald Trump and GOP leaders are asserting that their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act will protect people with pre-existing conditions—despite fact that the current bill allows states to waive the protections, giving insurers a green light to jack up the rates of those with a chronic illness or disability.

Other rank-and-file lawmakers have been more blunt.

“People can go to the state that they want to live in,” Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) told reporters Tuesday morning when asked if people with pre-existing conditions could be charged much more under the American Health Care Act.

“States have all kinds of different policies and there are disparities among states for many things: driving restrictions, alcohol, whatever,” he continued. “We’re putting choices back in the hands of the states. That’s what Jeffersonian democracy provides for.”

Pittenger acknowledged that under an amendment to the bill rolled out in April to win over the support of hardline conservatives, states can apply for waivers to Obamacare’s community rating rule, which limits how much insurance companies can charge people with pre-existing conditions. With no limit set in the bill for what insurers could charge, many patient advocacy groups say they’re afraid millions of people could be priced out of health insurance entirely.

Under the GOP’s amended bill, states could also seek waivers to Obamacare’s essential health benefits rule, allowing insurers to sell bare bones plans that don’t cover things like prescription medicine, emergency room visits, or maternity care.

“This is federalism,” Pittenger said. “This brings the choices back to the American people and back to the states.”

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Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

As House Republicans struggle to secure the 216 votes needed to pass their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, GOP leaders are making both vague and concrete offers to the remaining holdouts in their conference.

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), who previously opposed the American Health Care Act out of fear undocumented immigrants could somehow receive tax credits to purchase health care, said that his vote has been won over by promises from President Trump and GOP leaders that they will advance a separate bill this month that “will require that a person’s Social Security number is verified before we give them a tax credit.”

“I talked to the President at length last night and he agreed 100 percent that he wants it fixed as well,” Barletta told reporters Tuesday. “So my issue is going to be taken care of. I’ve got a letter that puts in writing, from Treasury and Homeland Security.”

Barletta asserted that these assurances will win over more undecided votes than just his, but wouldn’t cite a number of lawmakers or provide any names.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), chair of the influential Ways and Means Committee, confirmed the promised vote on Barletta’s bill, and said it was just one of several they would move forward in order to win over remaining outliers. “We have several improvements to the [Obamacare] replacement that will go separately,” he told reporters. “I intend to include Mr. Barletta’s bill. It’s really an excellent piece of legislation. We haven’t set a date for a markup yet but I anticipate it coming before the end of the month.”

Leaders also secured the vote of Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), until recently a staunch critic of the bill, by promising a vote on his pet issue.

Yet even as leaders float the possibility of a vote this week, lawmakers seemed unsure of whether changes are still being made to the text of the bill itself.

“It’s not final yet,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who has not committed to supporting the AHCA but is leaning in that direction. “We certainly haven’t seen the final language. We’re still talking about possible changes. Nothing specific, just people saying we should do this or that.”

“If they don’t have the votes, they have to make changes,” King said. “They want to get it done.”

One of those changes, Brady confirmed, will strip out the exemption for members of Congress that was tucked into the bill last week.

Yet other members who remain on the fence about this bill say they are not getting similar offers of policy tweaks.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who is undecided and leaning towards a no vote, said his call for “expanded tax credits for low-income people and those approaching the age of retirement” has not been heeded by leadership.

“The changes I’m asking for probably won’t be made here,” he said.

Asked how leadership is trying to win his vote, Curbelo said ruefully: “They’re not trying to convince me.”


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Despite immense pressure this week from GOP leadership and the White House—which desperately wanted their Obamacare repeal bill to pass within President Trump’s first 100 days in office—moderate Republicans held out. Trumpcare 3.0 met the same fate as its previous iterations, and everyone promised to try again later.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), the co-chair of the centrist Tuesday Group, says he and his colleagues have so many concerns about the core policies in the plan that Republicans should consider starting over. “We need to change the paradigm,” he told reporters Friday. “I think the bill has got too many problems, and they need to rework it from the center out.” Specifically, Dent and other holdouts cite the bill’s deep cuts to Medicaid, rate hikes for older Americans, and insufficient protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

But GOP leaders are not heeding his advice, and are instead vowing to keep trying to get the same Obamacare repeal bill to President Trump’s desk in the weeks to come. These are the not-yet-addressed concerns that will come back to haunt them.

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President Trump will unveil Wednesday a proposal to slash the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent—a change that would balloon the federal deficit by an estimated $2 trillion dollars over a decade. The plan will reportedly include additional cuts to the income tax rate paid by high earners and a tax credit for child care that would mostly benefit the wealthy, at further cost to the federal budget.

While some Republican lawmakers cheerfully echoed to TPM the White House line that the tax cuts will “pay for themselves” by spurring massive economic growth, both official government analyses and conservative economists are much more skeptical.

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After a two-weeks of being berated by their constituents at raucous town halls—and watching Democrats come close to flipping two solidly red districts in Kansas and Georgia—members of Congress return to DC Monday. With few legislative accomplishments under their belts so far, they now face a government funding deadline, a debt ceiling increase, demands from the White House to take another swing at repealing Obamacare, and the daunting, likely impossible task of overhauling the tax code by August.

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The Justice Department wrote to eight cities Friday afternoon that have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, demanding they submit proof of compliance with federal immigration law and threatening their federal grant money if they fail to do so.

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