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Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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A federal court in Texas Monday found that the state's voter ID law was passed in 2011 with the intent to discriminate against minority voters. The ruling comes after the law was repeatedly found to have the effect of discriminating against minority voters, but it has been sent back to the district court by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to assess the intent claims with a higher legal standard.

"Because the Fifth Circuit found that some of the evidence in this case was not probative of a discriminatory purpose in the Texas Legislature’s enactment of SB 14, this Court was tasked with re-examining its conclusion on the discriminatory purpose issue," the opinion, written by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, said. "Upon reconsideration and a re-weighing of the evidence in conformity with the Fifth Circuit’s opinion, the Court holds that the evidence found 'infirm' did not tip the scales."

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About a half-dozen or so Republican representatives who supported the failed GOP bill that would have repealed Obamacare are being targeted by a seven-figure ad buy from a coalition supportive of the Affordable Care Act.

The ad campaign calls out by name Republicans such as Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Mike Coffman (R-CO), who represent purple districts and were supportive of the legislation, the American Health Care Act, that was pulled from the floor last month due to lack of votes.

“Congressman Issa promised to protect our health care,” the ad, produced by Save My Care, says. “But when right-wing politicians tried to pass a disastrous health care repeal bill that raises costs and cuts coverage, Issa wouldn’t oppose them.”

The seven representatives targeted are Reps. Mike Coffman (R-CO), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) Darrell Issa (R-CA) Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) Brian Mast (R-FL) Martha McSally (R-AZ) David Valadao (R-CA).

The ad campaign comes as some Republicans, including top deputies to President Trump, have sought to revive the repeal effort with tweaks to the failed bill. The day before Congress was set to leave Washington for a two-week Easter recess, the House Rules Committee rushed through a hearing on a vague amendment to the bill that would have funded state-run reinsurance programs. Another change being considered to shore up support would be to allow states to opt out of it the ACA’s Essential Health Benefits requirement, though it appears the idea lost more supporters than it gained.

The original legislation would have gutted Medicaid spending, reworked Obamacare’s tax credits, scaled back the law’s Essential Health Benefits, and eliminated most of its taxes, including those on high-earners.

Senators from both parties mostly rallied behind President Donald Trump’s surprise strike Thursday night on a Syrian airfield, but many cautioned that any further military action deserved their input.

“He was responding to a chemical attack that was an atrocity, outrageous, and a response was appropriate,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, told reporters Friday at the Capitol.

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Nearly 14 months, two presidents, two nominees, and one national election after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep at a West Texas ranch, the Senate confirmed his successor Friday.

President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado, where he sits on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, was confirmed by a deeply divided Senate 54-45 after a high-stakes battle that culminated in Republicans upending Senate rules to thwart Democrats’ attempts to block him.

Gorsuch’s confirmation closed a tumultuous chapter in the political battles that have come to characterize the Senate judicial confirmation process. Years of partisan posturing over court nominees escalated to new heights after Scalia’s death, as GOP senators – in an unprecedented move – blocked President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, from even receiving a confirmation hearing. Democrats’ hopes of flipping the Supreme Court for a generation came crashing down with Trump’s victory in November after campaigning on a list of judges that included Gorsuch, an appellate judge with sterling conservative legal credentials.

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) move to hold Scalia’s seat open and make the campaign a referendum on the Supreme Court likely helped Trump get elected, exit polls suggested. More importantly, it was a major power grab that cemented the rightward bent of the Supreme Court, a crucial power source for Republicans, for decades to come.

Denying Obama the ability to fill a Supreme Court seat that opened almost a year before his term ended also represented the apex of Republicans’ delegitimization of the country’s first African-American president. The bitter feelings over Garland were no doubt a factor in Democrats’ decision to fight Gorsuch’s confirmation tooth and nail.

The showdown culminated in a major change to Senate rules pushed by GOP senators Thursday after Democrats filibustered Gorsuch to block his final up-or-down confirmation vote. In some ways the use of the “nuclear option” to destroy the Supreme Court filibuster was a long time coming; Democrats were floating it last year when Republicans suggested they’d block a putative President Clinton’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

Yet senators of both parties felt uneasy about the decision, and Democrats said that the bad taste over Garland made it impossible to come to a deal with Republicans to avoid upending longstanding Senate tradition.

UNITED STATES - APRIL 6: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gives a thumbs up after the Senate invoked the "nuclear option" which will allow for a majority vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice nominee, April 6, 2017. The vote for nominee Neil Gorsuch is scheduled for Friday. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gives a thumbs up after the Senate invoked the “nuclear option” which allows for a majority vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice nominee.

Like other judges who assemble resumes that make them potential high-profile judicial nominees,  Gorsuch mostly avoided weighing in over the course of his career on the bench on the most polarizing issues facing the Supreme Court today. Yet he left plenty of bread crumbs that have the conservative legal movement cheering.

A book he wrote in 2006 about assisted suicide has bolstered the anti-abortion movement’s optimism that he will rule in their favor on abortion rights issues. Gorsuch has questioned the legal precedent known as Chevron deference, a reference to a Supreme Court case that gave executive agencies broad discretion in interpreting legislative statutes. More broadly, he is oft-compared to Scalia and it is believed by some court observers that he may even be more conservative than the late justice.

Gorsuch was born in and raised Denver before moving to Washington, where his mother, Anne Gorsuch, served a brief and embattled tenure as Environmental Protection Agency administrator under President Reagan. He attended Columbia University and then law school at Harvard. He served as clerks for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, and his confirmation Friday will make him the first Supreme Court justice to serve alongside a former mentor.

After his clerkship, Gorsuch worked in private practice and then in the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush, before his appointment to the 10th Circuit appeals court in 2006. He is married and has two daughters.

His confirmation hearing flummoxed Democrats, whose attempts to engage with him on his deeper ideology were largely rebuffed, while Gorsuch put on a charm routine for the Republicans on the Judiciary Senate Committee, who threw him softball after softball.

It is expected that Gorsuch will be officially sworn in early next week and will be sitting on the bench by the end of the Supreme Court’s 2016-2017 term, after more than a year during which Scalia’s seat was empty.

Senate Republicans on Thursday were able to advance the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, after invoking the so-called "nuclear option" to eliminate the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees. Gorsuch will likely get his final confirmation vote, an up-or-down vote he is expected to pass, on Friday.

After Democrats mounted a filibuster to block Gorsuch, the Senate voted along party lines, 52-48, to overrule the current rules regarding Supreme Court nominations, allowing Republicans to take the cloture vote that ends debate on the confirmation Thursday afternoon. That procedural showdown was highly anticipated and closely followed the script of the parliamentarian mechanics expected.

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Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

On Monday, a handful of House Republicans – encouraged by meetings with the White House – were singing a song of Easter Hallelujah, claiming that the GOP health care bill that two weeks ago had been declared dead was ready to be revived. Forty-eight hours later, a whirlwind of late-night meetings, brokered by the Trump administration’s top brass, between the conference’s opposing wings brought Republicans no closer to an agreement, despite optimism that a deal was imminent and a vote could be scheduled this week.

Republicans, who head out to their April recess this weekend, are playing down the most recent breakdown in talks as just a matter of the fits-and-starts it will take for the GOP to accomplish its long-held goal of dismantling the Affordable Care Act. But given the sloppy negotiating, over-promising and the finger-pointing that ensued, it sure sounds like the recent chatter could have been the bill’s death rattle.

It was a new flash point the sunk the latest round of talks. But the old divisions remain: conservative hardliners seeking to gut the law as much as possible versus moderates who’d like to hold on to its more popular aspects. Many of the same patterns  that helped kill the American Health Care Act last month re-emerged: an expedited timeline, back-channel side deals and a steep learning curve on what happens when you overhaul the health care system. The only difference this time around was that key congressional leadership distanced itself from the intra-party squabbling, suggesting they’d rather let rank-and-file work out the differences among themselves before they take any movement on the bill too seriously.

“Members are coming to the realization that it’s difficult to get a wide group of conservatives around a health care reform,” House GOP deputy whip, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), told reporters Wednesday.

The misunderstandings and misleading characterizations were aplenty as White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, met with the various competing factions.

They started with a Monday afternoon meeting at the White House with a half-dozen moderates who were all previous “yes” votes. The idea that was presented to them – for them to give their greenlight – was allowing states to waive some of the Obamacare Title I reforms if the states could prove they could design programs to increase coverage and lower premiums. The elimination of the Essential Health Benefits in the original bill, a demand of the Freedom Caucus, had spooked moderates and this new proposal was considered a compromise.

One of the meeting’s participants, Trump ally Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), told reporters afterward that the community ratings – which prevent insurers from hiking up premiums based on health status – were “under discussion” among the ACA mandates from which states could opt out. By Wednesday – after the talks had floundered — he claimed that “we never talked about community ratings.”

“I don’t support that,” Collins said. “It never came up in our discussions on Monday, so I would never want anyone to infer we were told something Monday that changed on Tuesday.”

The House Freedom Caucus had its own meeting with the Trump administration to preview the deal Monday night. Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) said coming out of it that the conservative hardliners were waiting for legislative text to make a decision on the offering and that they were expecting it, based on signals from the White House, within the next 24 hours, in time for a Tuesday night meeting with the moderates and the leaders of Republican Study Committee, a much larger group of House conservatives.

Throughout Tuesday, neither the White House nor the House Energy and Commerce would say that they were drafting the proposal, and no such text was circulated in Tuesday’s evening’s meeting with the groups.

“Some of those reports were erroneous,” White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short told reporters Wednesday, even as other Republicans, including Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), the co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group, had said they had heard from Pence that text was being drafted.

Energy and Commerce Chair Greg Walden (R-OR) also confirmed Thursday that his committee hadn’t yet started the legislative drafting.

Additionally, it had become clear in the hours leading up to Tuesday’s meeting that moderates and Freedom Caucus members were being spun two different deals, with the moderates getting the sense that the barrier for the waivers would be quite high and the conservatives suggesting that they would be handed out like candy.

“States have to provide a better plan for their citizens, if they can do that, then I think that’s worth discussing,” MacArthur told reporters before the meeting.

“As long as my constituents don’t have to abide by the Obamacare regulations and there is a vehicle to make sure that happens, I will have accomplished my task,” Meadows said that same afternoon.

Regardless of what was actually promised to the warring groups, top Republicans are now casting off the idea of waiving community ratings as a “bridge too far.”

“Right now, the offerings have diminished votes, not increased them,” McHenry said Wednesday.

The blame-game, that was already underway in post-mortems of the original bill’s failure, has only intensified since this last go-around. Collins accused the Freedom Caucus Wednesday of “playing Lucy with the football” and said they were “less than genuine in trying to get to yes.”

Meanwhile, Michael Needham, the CEO of outside conservative group Heritage Action, hosted a press phone call where he bashed the moderate Republicans for “intransigence” and argued that they “clearly want to keep Obamacare in place.”

Asked Wednesday if he believed that everyone was at the table negotiation in good faith, Meadows –who has mostly withheld public criticism of the moderates – said coyly, “I can say that the Freedom Caucus is negotiating in good faith and that’s about the only one that I could give a good a opinion on, and of course you will get a different opinion depending on who you talk to.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has mostly stayed out of the recent round of tussling. He didn’t attend Tuesday night’s meeting – some of his staff, as well as Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy were there instead. Ryan at a Wednesday Q&A defended his hands-off approach.

“What’s happening is what needs to happen, which is members need to start talking with each other about why they think the way they think, so they can get a better understanding of each other’s concerns,” Ryan said. “That’s how you bridge gaps.”

Other Republicans have complained that the latest round of negotiations took place outside the committee structure.

“Many of us on the committees have spent years on these policies, and to just see it kind of being pulled away and put behind the scenes potentially to me is not the wisest course to take,” Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), a Ways and Means Committee member, said Tuesday, according to the Washington Post.

Few Republicans have said that they’re ready to throw in the towel yet, but some are hinting their patience won’t last forever.

“There does come a time, and I don’t think we’re there yet, where you have to say: ‘Ok, we can’t fix this Hyundai anymore. We better go looking for a new vehicle,'” Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), a Freedom Caucus member who sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, told reporters Wednesday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the difficulty Republicans have had in passing an Obamacare repeal bill would not deter them, arguing that the House GOP has “weeks” to continue to work on the bill.

“We are not going to take one setback and call it a day,” Ryan said at a Q&A Wednesday with WisPolitics.com President Jeff Mayers. He said that his caucus was engaged in “very productive conversations” at the “concept stage.”

“We can keep working this for weeks now,” Ryan said. “We don’t have some kind of artificial deadline in front of us.”

His comments comes as the renewed push for a deal to pass Republicans’ American Health Care Act — which was dramatically pulled from the floor two weeks ago due to lack of votes — appears to be petering out. Participants in a late-night meeting between White House officials and leaders of the various wings of  the House GOP emerged Monday evening saying that no agreement had been made to reach consensus on the bill.

Ryan said Wednesday that Republicans had been “90 percent” of the way to coalescing around the bill, but that they needed to be “95 percent” there for it to pass on the House floor.

“I am hopeful that there’s a health care deal. I don’t want to put any specific odds on it,” Ryan said.

Additional reporting by Alice Ollstein

If Republicans are praying for an Easter miracle to revive their Obamacare repeal-and-replace gambit, they may need to pray a little harder.

After a round of talks Monday between top White House officials and groups of members about potentially amending the failed GOP health care bill to allow states to waive certain Obamacare insurance standards, Republican House members emerged from their weekly conference meeting Tuesday morning with few new details that would suggest the legislation could be revived before next week’s Easter recess.

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In an attempt to resuscitate Republicans' failed Obamacare repeal bill, Trump administration figures met Monday with the hardline House conservatives who helped sink the legislation, as well as centrist GOP members who supported it, to float a proposal to allow states to opt out of certain Obamacare market reforms.

"We have to get more into the detail, Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) told TPM as he headed into the weekly GOP House conference meeting Tuesday morning. "This is really important work that have to get right."

It's not clear whether the ongoing talks will yield a revival of the repeal bill, or whether they have the blessing the House leadership, which was so badly burned by the failure of the bill last month. Even if a revised bill were to get through the House, the repeal effort's prospects in the Senate remained even murkier.

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