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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

2013 hasn't exactly been a banner year for the Heritage Foundation, Washington's most well-known and influential conservative think tank.

In its first year under former senator and tea party godfather Jim DeMint, there was a growing consensus -- and concern -- that the foundation once renowned for its intellectual rigor might now be more of a political advocacy outlet than a home for scholarly research, albeit of the conservative variety.

Heritage saw a study on the supposed cost of immigration reform blasted by those within its own ideological sphere as methodologically shoddy. One of its authors was forced to resign after revelations of anti-immigrant views in his earlier work surfaced. Its Obamacare research has come under scrutiny for its inherent bias, as TPM has reported.

Those unforced slip-ups, and its advocacy arm's growing reputation as a bully toward any kind of moderation, have started to call the foundation's reputation into question on Capitol Hill. Conservatives lamented to the New Republic that Heritage had become a political action group "with a research division," burning bridges with the House GOP, something totally foreign to "the gold standard of conservative, forward-looking thought" that it used to be. The foundation's $82 million budget was reportedly being scaled back, with more money flowing to the advocacy efforts that have so chafed Hill Republicans.

That's why Heritage's most recent hire could mark a potential return to normalcy and respectability for the foundation.

The new man is Stephen Moore, most recently of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, who is joining Heritage as its chief economist. He has previously worked at Heritage in the 1980's, the Cato Institute, and Club for Growth before spending the last nine years at the Journal.

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Some 6.3 million people have enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program since Oct. 1, when HealthCare.gov and its state counterparts went live, according to a new report from the Obama administration. The report covers Medicaid enrollments through the end of December.

That figures includes people who are newly eligible for Medicaid because their state expanded the program under the health care reform law, people who were already eligible but not enrolled and, in some states, people who were renewing their eligibility.

Thirteen states included renewals in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report, though their exact number out of the 6.3 million could not be determined.

States that expanded Medicaid saw a boom in enrollments in December, corresponding with a similar surge in private coverage enrollees through the insurance marketplaces. Medicaid enrollments were up 73 percent in those states last month compared to the pre-Obamacare monthly average. In states that didn't expand Medicaid, enrollment was up 3 percent in December.

The U.S. Secret Service paid a visit to the Florida state House candidate who advocated for President Barack Obama's execution on Twitter.

Joshua Black, a Republican who is running in Florida House District 68, told the Tampa Bay Times that Secret Service agents had come to his home following the uproar over his comments.

"I'm past impeachment. It's time to arrest him and hang him high," read a message on Black's campaign Twitter page Monday.

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Bill Gates told BuzzFeed Tuesday that he voted in favor of marijuana legalization last year in Washington state.

The Microsoft founder said it would be "interesting" to see how legalization played out in his home state. Recreational pot is expected to be for sale some time in 2014.

“It’s an experiment, and it’s probably good to have a couple states try it out to see before you make that national policy,” Gates told BuzzFeed. The marijuana ballot initiative passed 56 percent to 44 percent last November.

He declined to say whether he had smoked pot in the past, though BuzzFeed noted that he is listed by the Marijuana Policy Project as one of the top 50 most influential pot users based on reporting in a Gates biography published in 1994.

A Republican candidate for a Florida state House seat said Monday that President Barack Obama should be executed for war crimes, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

"I'm past impeachment. It's time to arrest him and hang him high," read a tweet that Joshua Black, whose website said he formerly practiced street evangelism in St. Louis, Mo., retweeted. Black, who is African-American, added: "Agreed."

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December was the month that Obamacare desperately needed.

Spurred by the approaching deadline to sign up for coverage that started in January, Americans finally showed up to HealthCare.gov and its state-based counterparts in droves -- and for the most part those websites were finally able to accommodate them. About 1.8 million people signed up in December alone, about five times the total enrollment in October and November combined.

With such a significant surge, some states are starting to make serious progress toward covering their uninsured population.

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The December enrollment surge for the Affordable Care Act that the Obama administration long predicted -- and desperately needed -- has come to fruition.

As of Dec. 28, 2.2 million Americans have enrolled in private health coverage, according to new data released Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More than 1.8 million of them signed up in December alone, a huge spike that has gotten the law closer to its original goals than most would have thought possible after HealthCare.gov's disastrous rollout in October.

The administration's original projection was 3.3 million enrollments in private health insurance by the end of 2013, so Obamacare isn't quite back on track yet. But considering the combined total in October and November was less than the administration had targeted for just the month of October, it's much closer to the mark.

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Obamacare has thus far done a decidedly mediocre job in getting young people signed up for health coverage -- though it's likely doing well enough that the law's finances should continue to work.

For the first time Monday, the Obama administration released demographic data about the 2.2 million who have enrolled in private coverage through HealthCare.gov and its state counterparts. The top finding: 24 percent of them are between ages 18 and 34.

Each individual state and each individual insurer has its own risk pool, but the national number provides a general sense of how the law is doing demographically. Some states had previously released some demographic information about enrollments, but the federal government had not released any numbers until today.

It's a crucial question: In order for the law to ban discrimination against people with preexisting conditions, it needs young (and presumably healthy) people to sign up for coverage to offset the costs of that sicker population to insurers. Without it, the insurance industry has warned that premiums could leap next year.

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The next big question in the George Washington Bridge scandal that has rattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: determining whether or not anybody should be charged with a crime.

The U.S. attorney has opened a preliminary inquiry after a referral from the inspector general at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which had been investigating the matter. David Wildstein, the disgraced Christie appointee at the heart of the scandal, repeatedly invoked his right to remain silent during an oversight hearing with state lawmakers. The journey toward uncovering any potential criminality is well underway.

But where does it end? Legal and ethics experts caution that we don't have enough information to predict with much certainty. But based on what is known, they suggest a few potential threads to follow.

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This post has been updated.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) faced the music Thursday following the revelation that members of his administration had been involved in lane closures on the George Washington Bridge last year.

But while he hit all the necessary notes -- apologizing to the people of New Jersey, announcing he'd fired members of his staff and claiming the ultimate responsibility for what happened -- Christie routinely slipped into moments of cognitive dissonance and rhetorical flubs that suggested the scandal has left the governor at least slightly shaken.

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