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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

Democrats need to gird for a new battle with Republicans over Social Security and be prepared not to yield any ground in defense of the program, one of the leading Democratic senators on the issue told TPM in an interview.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee's Social Security subcommittee, said that Democrats shouldn't be willing to negotiate after House Republicans have stated outright that they want to pursue changes to the program.

Brown also expressed confidence that President Barack Obama would hold strong on Social Security, despite concerns among Social Security advocates that the president has shown a willingness to negotiate over the program in the past.

"We have a president who can use a veto pen and will eagerly do it on something like this," Brown said. He said his confidence in the White House's position "comes from discussions with them."

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68. That's how many times the Congressional Budget Office, Capitol Hill's official scorekeeper, ran the numbers on Obamacare while the law was being drafted. And not once, according to a new analysis, did CBO officials give any credence to the legal challenge now being brought by the law's opponents.

In a review for the Scholars Strategy Network, Harvard University's Theda Skopcol scrutinized 68 reports that CBO released during the 2009 and 2010 debate. She was looking for any evidence that Congress intended for the law's subsidies to be available only on state-run exchanges, as the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell argue. If they prevail at the Supreme Court, health coverage for millions in the 36 states using the federal exchange would be at risk.

She didn't find any.

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With the Supreme Court threatening to gut Obamacare, a top insurance executive says that he is working on a "grand bargain" between the White House and Congress in case that worst-case scenario comes to be.

Reuters reported Thursday on the comments that Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, who has been a frequent critic of the law, made to a small group of investors. He described his ambitions as a "grand bargain" if the Court rules that tax subsidies offered in the 30-plus states using HealthCare.gov are invalid.

"Blowing up the (Affordable Care Act) is like shutting down the government," Bertolini said. "So we are having conversations on both sides of the aisle about what ... things you change in the ACA, what we could introduce, about how to make a grand bargain should the Supreme Court decide."

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Marilyn Tavenner, one of the the top Obama administration officials tasked with implementing the Affordable Care Act, is leaving her post after Februay.

"It is with sadness and mixed emotions that I write to tell you that February will be my last month serving as the Administrator for (the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)," Tavenner said in an email to colleagues on Friday, which was obtained by TPM. Her departure was first reported by the Huffington Post's Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young.

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The economy is not the top priority for Americans heading into 2015, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday, the first time that another issue has been at the top of the public mind under President Barack Obama.

Terrorism has eclipsed the economy as the biggest issue for Americans, the group's annual survey of the public's policy priorities found, being named by 76 percent of Americans as a top priority for Obama and Congress.

The economy was pegged by 75 percent -- which is still a big number, but it represented a 11-point drop from 2013. Likewise, the job situation was picked by 67 percent, the third priority behind the economy and terrorism, but it has also fallen by 12 points in the last two years.

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Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) has become a forceful advocate for Medicaid expansion, using his State of the State address on Wednesday to demand Wyoming's legislature adopt the key Obamacare provision.

"We have fought the fight against the (Affordable Care Act)," he said at the statehouse, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. "We've done our best to find a fit for Wyoming. We are out of timeouts, and we need to address Medicaid expansion this session."

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The White House has weighed in publicly for the first time on a House Republican move that could precipitate a fight over Social Security in the next two years.

The House voted last week to block a routine transfer of tax revenue between Social Security's retirement and disability funds; the latter is projected to start being unable to pay full benefits in late 2016, sparking a crisis that advocates warn the GOP could use as leverage to push changes to the program. The rule says a transfer, which had been done 11 times previously under Democratic and Republican administrations, can be done only if there are cost-saving measures attached to it.

In a statement to TPM, the White House said that it generally opposes measures that limit Congress's ability to transfer revenue between the Social Security funds, as the House rule does.

"Generally speaking, the Administration strongly opposes any efforts to undermine Congress’ ability to reallocate funds between the Social Security retirement and disability trust funds," a White House spokesperson told TPM, "as they have done with bipartisan support numerous times in the past in both directions."

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is putting her significant influence and fundraising prowess behind California Attorney General Kamala Harris in the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

"California Attorney General Kamala Harris is a smart, tough, and experienced prosecutor who has consistently stood up to Wall Street," Warren said in an email to supporters that asked for donations to support Harris's campaign. "I worked with Kamala, and I saw up close and personal that she is tough, she is principled, and she fights hard."

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A new battle is brewing over Social Security in 114th Congress. The House passed a rule last week that critics say could hasten a crisis on the disability side of the program in late 2016, allowing Republicans to use the looming threat of benefit cuts as leverage in negotiations. New Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has hinted at his hopes for a grand bargain on entitlements, and House Budget Chair Tom Price (R-GA) signaled Monday that he too had big ambitions for Social Security reform.

Social Security, in more ways than one the mother of all U.S. entitlement programs, has been the dragon that conservatives have succeeded in slashing, but never slaying, over its 80-year history. Their opposition has morphed from outright ideological grounds as the program was being debated during the New Deal era to a campaign masked in careful rhetoric once Social Security became virtually untouchable as a political animal.

Republicans know they have a new opportunity with the disability trust fund and a leverage point that comes along once every 20 years, and they're seizing it. Price floated some favorite proposals like means-testing, increasing the eligibility age, and individual accounts (otherwise known as privatization). He described it as the GOP's effort to "normalize the discussion and debate about Social Security."

Democrats have certainly undertaken and signed onto changes to Social Security opposed by its staunchest supporters. But the program has never been perceived by the left as an existential threat the way it has been by many on the right. To understand where conservatives are now, you have to understand how they got there. The following is derived in large part from "The Battle for Social Security," authored by Social Security Works's co-director Nancy Altman, and TPM's own consultations with other experts on the program.

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