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

A sweeping $400 billion budget passed both chambers of Congress in the wee hours of Friday morning with a mix of Democratic and Republican votes, leaving those anxious to protect roughly 700,000 young immigrants without a way to force a vote to restore the legal protections President Trump revoked last year.

The papers of many people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will expire on March 5, and the short-term budget blows past that deadline, funding the government until March 23 and raising the debt ceiling until mid-2019. If Congress fails to agree on a permanent solution for DACA recipients in the next few weeks—or even a short-term punt many lawmakers see as a “Plan Z”—young immigrants who have grown up in the United States and registered with the government could be deported later this year.

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In a press conference Thursday morning, about 14 hours before a potential government shutdown, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reiterated that she plans to vote against the budget bill when it comes back to the lower chamber Thursday afternoon. But when pressed by reporters on whether she will whip her Democratic caucus to vote against the bill, which would imperil its passage, she demurred, saying only that she has told them she personally will vote no even though she views it as “a good bill.”

A few hours later, however, an aide for Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) confirmed to TPM that leadership is whipping its members against the bill, blasting out an e-mail noting that the deal “fails to provide a path forward on protecting DREAMers” and asking if they will oppose the legislation. The bill, however, is still expected to pass with a mix of Democratic and Republican votes.

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Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say that punting difficult questions about immigration until next year would be “terrible,” “irresponsible” and “bad for the country.” They may just do it anyway.

With negotiations stalling out in the House and Senate on how to handle the fate of 700,000 young immigrants whose protections President Trump revoked last year, how much money to send to the U.S.-Mexico border and what changes if any should be made to legal immigration policy, lawmakers are warning that a one- or two-year deal may be in the offing, leaving millions of immigrants and their families in limbo.

Whether the White House would sign such a short-term deal is unclear. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly indicated earlier this week that he would advise the White House against it, and said of Congress, “What makes them act is pressure.”

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The Senate is slated to begin a floor debate early next week on some kind of an immigration bill, though what exactly will be included in that bill remains a mystery. Lawmakers meeting nearly every day to hammer out a compromise say they have yet to reach consensus on any piece of the puzzle, from how many young immigrants known as Dreamers will be granted a path to citizenship to how much funding will go to building new walls on the U.S.-Mexico border to what changes, if any, will be made to the nation’s legal immigration system. Amid this tangle of issues, several senators have told TPM, one piece has emerged as particularly difficult: the status of Dreamers’ parents.

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When the Trump administration chose to terminate President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September, it gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a way to protect the program’s nearly 700,000 young immigrants from deportation. After months of negotiations, there is no deal in sight, and exacerbating lawmakers’ usual foot-dragging and partisan divisions is widespread confusion about whether the deadline for action is truly just a few weeks away.

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This is our second health care reporter’s sum-up, a weekly series for TPM Prime.

This weekend, at their annual party retreat, Republican lawmakers admitted openly what we’ve long suspected: With the midterm elections looming, Congress will not be able to pass a bill to repeal Obamacare in 2018.

That means that most major policy changes will happen on the state level, and the past week had no shortage of news. The Trump administration gave Indiana the green light to impose work requirements, premiums, and a 90-day lockout provision on its Medicaid population. This announcement follows a similar one in Kentucky. Indiana’s HHS waiver is expected to kick tens of thousands of people off of Medicaid.

Meanwhile, Idaho has decided to flout the Affordable Care Act. The state announced that it will allow health insurance companies to sell plans that violate the ACA’s regulations — for example, plans that exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, or that charge sick people higher premiums. Some experts say the state’s move is “crazypants illegal,” arguing that states can’t simply ignore parts of federal laws that they don’t like. But it’s unclear whether Trump’s new HHS Secretary, Alex Azar, who is no fan of the ACA, will crack down on Idaho. If he doesn’t, it would open the door for other states to follow Idaho’s lead.

At the federal level, Congress must address a crisis hammering the nation’s Community Health Centers (CHC), which serve tens of millions of low-income Americans, many in rural areas. The program has for weeks been on the brink of running out of money. GOP lawmakers in the House have proposed including two years of funding in the next continuing resolution, which must pass by Thursday to avoid another government shutdown. In the meantime, health centers across the country are cutting their hours and staff in the face of the uncertainty.

Health care made a minor appearance in President Trump’s first State of the Union, where he inaccurately stated that Obamacare’s individual mandate is already gone. It’s not — not until 2019, at least. Americans are still required to have health insurance this year or pay a tax penalty. Trump also asserted that the individual mandate is the “core” of Obamacare — implying that, by getting rid of it, the GOP-controlled Congress had repealed the entire law. This is, at best, debatable. Killing the mandate will lead to a drop in coverage and a subsequent a bump in premiums, but the jury is out on how big of an impact this will have as long as federal subsidies for health plans remain available.

The health care section of the State of the Union was also notable for what was left out: namely, that the ACA had a gangbusters open-enrollment period despite the administration’s efforts to sabotage it. Several states that run their own exchanges saw enrollment reach record levels.

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The short-term budget Congress threw together to end the government shutdown in January will expire this week, and lawmakers have yet to solve any of the disagreements that brought them to the brink in the first place.

Negotiations over the fate of 700,000 young immigrants whose protections Trump revoked last year have stalled out—with moderates attempting to craft a narrower deal and the White House threatening to veto anything that doesn’t include provisions to slash legal immigration. And because Congress has yet to cut a deal to set new budget caps on military and domestic spending, lawmakers will have to pass yet another stop-gap continuing resolution by Feb. 8 to avoid another shutdown. Hanging over all of this is the debt ceiling, which Congress must raise earlier than expected because the GOP tax bill is already costing the government tens of billions in revenue.

With an eye on the midterm elections this fall, lawmakers are hesitant to stick their necks out for tough compromises, making agreement on all these issues an even heavier lift.

Welcome to the spring of Congress’ nightmares.

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Newly-sworn-in Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar flew to Indiana on Friday to announce that the state has been approved to impose work requirements, premiums and a 90-day lockout provision on its Medicaid population.

The green light for the state — home to Vice President Mike Pence and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma —  to impose those restrictions is the second ever allowed in Medicaid’s 50-plus year history, and follows on the heels of a similar waiver for Kentucky that is already drawing legal challenges.   

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