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Dylan Scott

Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Dylan

Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, wants you to know his Democratic opponent Mary Burke is a one-percenter and an outsourcer whose family company doesn't pay its fair share of taxes. That's the brave new world in the Badger State, where the GOP incumbent is taking a page out of the Obama campaign's strategy against Mitt Romney to attack his 2014 gubernatorial rival.

The state Republican Party has invited voters to get to know "outsourcing millionaire Mary Burke" who is "a definitive ‘one-percenter'" on a new website purporting to introduce Wisconsinites to Walker's relatively unknown challenger. Walker claims that the Burke family company, Trek Bicycles, makes 99 percent of its bikes overseas. The executive director of the state GOP said that Burke's company "avoid(s) paying their fair share of corporate taxes."

Such strong anti-corporate rhetoric from a staunch conservative like Scott Walker, the mastermind behind the 2011 anti-union bill that sparked national controversy, enthralling national Republicans while infuriating Democrats, has caught the attention of national writers like The New Republic's Alec MacGillis. So what is going on in Wisconsin?

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After getting bounced be a federal judge, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is continuing his fight against allowing the federal government to help pay the insurance premiums for members of Congress and their staffs under Obamacare. He plans to appeal a ruling last month by a federal judge who dismissed the case because Johnson had no reason to sue.

Johnson announced his plans Monday in an op-ed for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He is challenging an Obama administration rule that allows members of Congress and staff to continue receiving the money the federal governments pays toward their insurance premiums when they purchase health coverage on Obamacare's insurance exchanges. A provision of the original Obamacare law, pushed by Republicans, requires members and their staffs to participate in the exchanges.

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One of the first things that Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) did after officially announcing his candidacy for Colorado's Senate seat in March was disavow his previous support for the "personhood" cause, the anti-abortion movement to define life as beginning at conception.

While his opponent Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and other Democrats labeled Gardner as a flip-flopper, social conservatives felt a deep betrayal. Gardner had advocated for a personhood amendment to the state's constitution since 2008.

"Republicans are so thirsty for victory they're ready to drink saltwater," Ed Hanks, a personhood activist who lives in Douglas County, a Republican stronghold, said at the time, according to the Denver Post. "Cory Gardner has just renounced the party platform and embraced abortion."

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MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, a key Obamacare architect, generated significant debate last week when a 2012 video surfaced in which he appeared to agree with the law's current legal challengers: Subsidies are not available on the federal insurance marketplace. Now those comments have made an appearance in a U.S. Supreme Court brief asking the high court to take up the issue.

The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell asked the Supreme Court Thursday to take their case. They lost their lawsuit, one of several challenging the subsides, before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last week. Rather than appeal to the full appeals court, they took it straight to the Supreme Court.

In their new brief, the plaintiffs point to Gruber's comments to bolster their position: "The robust incentives provided by the ACA -- in particular, the conditioning of tax credits on state-run exchanges -- were thought sufficient to do so. As one of the Act's architects, Prof. Jonathan Gruber, later explained ..."

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The national launch of the "Draft Mitt" movement has been nixed, the Deseret News reported on Thursday, as some of the 2012 GOP presidential candidate's closest advisers criticized the group.

As TPM reported last month, the Ready for Hillary knockoff had gained some momentum with a slick website and thousands of signatures (up to 115,000, as of Friday). But it was unclear who was running it and one top Romney's top 2012 adviser, Stuart Stevens, said at the time that he knew nothing about it.

The Deseret News revealed the face behind the movement, Utah Republican State Chairman James Evans. But after pledging "a grander national strategy in the future," which included an August event in South Carolina, Evans has called those bigger plans off amid anger from Romney's inner circle.

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The story of whether Congress ever intended to limit Obamacare subsidies to state-based exchanges begins and ends with the Congressional Budget Office. And what it reveals about the latest legal threat to Obamacare dramatically undercuts the arguments against the law.

No one person or institution was more central to the debate over Obamacare than the CBO. Every tweak to the law was funneled through the accounting brains of the non-partisan congressional scorekeeper to determine how much it would cost. Passage of the entire law hinged on its reports. Votes were delayed until CBO could finish its scoring. Specific provisions lived or died by its decrees. It is safe to say that the health care reform law we have today is in large part the result of the CBO's work.

But like everybody else on Capitol Hill in 2009 and 2010, from legislators to the journalists who covered them, the CBO's quants never even considered the scenario that Obamacare faces today. A federal appeals court has ruled in Halbig v. Burwell that the law's crucial subsidies are not available on the federal insurance exchange, HealthCare.gov, putting coverage for nearly 5 million people in 36 states at risk. That outcome, as bad as it would be for the uninsured, would dramatically lower the cost of Obamacare -- but the CBO never entertained that possibility for the same reason no one else did: It was not how the law was supposed to work.

Remember: Billions of dollars were at stake and everybody was watching. If the costs of Obamacare subsidies could shift by billions of dollars depending on whether a state built its own exchange or instead used the federal exchange, the CBO would have been the one to know about it. And you can bet that the nervous Obama White House, wavering Democrats, and eager-to-pounce Republicans would have responded if the CBO had interpreted any provision of the bill as putting subsidies at risk to state decision-making and put a figure on the financial fallout of that possible scenario. But that alternative picture of the law's costs was never created because nobody at the time understood the law to work that way.

Many of the journalists who followed the debate have retraced their steps, Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic and Sarah Kliff of Vox to name just two, arguing that their experiences, particularly talking with members and their staff during the legislative debate, shows that this legal challenge has no basis in reality and history. But it's even more than that. Not only did the legislators themselves never intend to cut out subsidies for the federal exchange, the CBO, that all-important arbiter of the law's costs, never once factored it into its analyses.

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Opponents of Obamacare who lost their legal case over federal subsidies last week are now appealing directly to the Supreme Court, CNBC reported, but it is not clear whether the Supreme Court will take the case.

The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, who lost when a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the subsidies on the federal Obamacare exchange, petitioned the Supreme Court on Thursday to hear their case, rather than seeking a review from the entire 4th Circuit Court. The 4th Circuit, once the most conservative federal appellate court, now has a majority of judges appointed by Democratic presidents.

The lawyers noted that after last week's ruling on the case, which came the same day that another federal appeals court ruled that the subsidies were not legal, millions of people "have no idea if they may rely on the IRS’s promise to subsidize their health coverage."

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Hospitals continue to report a significant drop in their number of uninsured patients as Obamacare coverage takes full effect, boosting their bottom lines, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.

Hospital Corporation of America, the biggest for-profit hospital network in the country, reported a 6.6 percent decrease in uninsured patients across its 165 hospitals, according to Bloomberg. And in the four states where HCA operates that expanded Medicaid, the drop was 48 percent.

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Nobody who watched the genesis of Obamacare could have conceived that we would get to this point. When a federal appeals court ruled last week that the law's subsidies were not available in the 36 states that used HealthCare.gov this year, it was the culmination of a unexpectedly turbulent legislative process and five ensuing years of willful Republican obstructionism that puts health coverage for nearly 5 million people at risk.

Separate state and federal exchanges were never supposed to exist. A national exchange, a more fully formed HealthCare.gov, if you will, was preferred by House Democrats and the White House. But unforeseen political changes forced Congress and the president to accept state exchanges with a federal backstop.

But then nobody really believed that states would chose not to set up their own exchanges. Until, fueled by the conservative legal challenges that they hoped would undo Obamacare as a whole as well as the politically motivated defiance of Republican governors, a substantial majority of states defaulted to the federal exchange.

Then enterprising opponents of the law discovered the language in one provision of the ACA that is now at the heart of their current legal challenge. They're arguing Congress didn't actually intend for subsidies to go through a federal exchange, even though a fully federal exchange is originally what many members and the White House wanted. Meanwhile, the law's defenders, as well as many journalists who covered its passage like Vox's Sarah Kliff and The New Republic's Brian Beutler, are being confronted with a scenario that they never could have anticipated after years of covering the law's drafting and implementation. It seems simply unthinkable to most of those who have tracked the law closely. But here we are.

This is how it happened.

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