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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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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in his opening remarks at Monday’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing argued that President Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch had a “super legitimacy” because he was nominated after a presidential election. He failed to mention, however, that Trump was only allowed to name Gorsuch because the GOP blockade of President Obama's nominee, whom Republicans blocked from even receiving a hearing.

"Given that history, given the engagement of the electorate nationally on this central issue, I would suggest that Judge Gorsuch is no ordinary nominee. Because of this unique and transparent process, unprecedented in the nation's history, his nomination carries with it a super legitimacy that is also unprecedented in our nation's history,” Cruz said. “The American people played a very direct role in helping choose this nominee."

Cruz did not mention Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland by name, but Democrats have name-checked him multiple times throughout their opening remarks Monday.

"It was almost a year ago today that president Obama nominated chief judge Merrick Garland for this seat,” the Judiciary Committee’s top Dem, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said. “Unfortunately, due to unprecedented treatment, Judge Garland was denied a hearing, and this vacancy has been in place for well over a year. I just want to say I am deeply disappointed that it under these circumstances that we begin our hearings."

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The major seniors group the AARP railed against the "harmful" Republican health care bill the House aims to vote on next week in a press release Friday that said the organization will "communicate the results of the House vote to our members and the public through The Bulletin, a print publication that goes to all of our members, as well as through emails, social media, and other communications channels."

The group also sent a letter to all 435 House members calling for a no vote on the legislation, the American Health Care Act, the release said.

"AARP recognizes the magnitude of the upcoming vote on this harmful legislation that creates an Age Tax, cuts the life of Medicare, and gives sweetheart deals to big drug and insurance companies while doing nothing to lower the cost of health care or prescriptions," AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said in the statement. "We intend on letting all 38 million of our members know exactly how their Representative voted."

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Four Republican governors came out against the House GOP's health care bill, and specifically the way it handles Medicaid, in a letter Thursday to congressional GOP leaders that also outlined an alternative proposal for overhauling the program, Bloomberg reported. Pointing to promises made by President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, the governors said that "the current version of the House bill does not meet this test."

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Even as major intra-party disagreements about House Obamacare replacement legislation continue, GOP leadership is aiming to bring the controversial bill, the American Health Care Act, up for a floor vote next Thursday, Politico reported based on two senior GOP sources.

The move comes as GOP leaders put on the full-court press to get defecting members on board, which included a highly visible meeting between President Donald Trump and about a dozen House members at the White House Friday morning.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) washed his hands of concerns that the direction he's taking Republicans' Obamacare repeal bill in the House will make it dead-on-arrival in the Senate.

"My job is to move bills through the House,” Ryan said at his weekly press conference Thursday, while noting the feedback from House members leadership is receiving through the process.

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Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

Moderate Republicans are warning that changes to the GOP health care bill made to assuage conservatives could risk a revolt from the the party's other wing. Of particular concern, especially to rank-and-file members from Medicaid expansion states, is the push from the hard right to phase out the expanded program even sooner than planned.

"I'm totally against that. There's no way I'm voting for that. I'm undecided now, but that would make me a definite no," Rep. Peter King (R-NY), told reporters after a GOP House conference meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The Republican health care bill currently freezes Medicaid expansion enrollment at the beginning of 2020. Conservatives, including those in the hardline Freedom Caucus and much larger Republican Study Committee, are lobbying for that date to be moved up to 2018.

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The fights over how Republicans’ Obamacare repeal legislation changes or eliminates ACA-related provisions have made the loudest noise as the legislation has moved forward on Capitol Hill. But its biggest provision -- both in terms of budgetary impact and long-term effect on the health care system -- is its overhaul of Medicaid, a transformation that Republicans have sought long before the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010.

Given the legislative limits GOP lawmakers face in fully repealing Obamacare and the struggles they’re having landing on a consensus ACA alternative, one could argue that the Obamacare repeal push is actually a trojan horse for the much more sweeping conversion of Medicaid, from an unlimited match rate into a system where federal funding will be limited on a per-enrollee-basis. Republicans are under immense political pressure, after years of campaign promises, to dismantle the ACA. But rather than tackle the 2010 bill on its own, they've used repealing it as a vehicle to attempt what they've wanted to do to Medicaid all along.

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The legislation Republican leaders are pitching as their replacement to Obamacare does little to fix a problem in the individual insurance market that has been a major GOP talking against the Affordable Care Act -- and the Republican-proposed alternative may even make the problem worse, health policy experts told TPM.

The prevalence of counties having only one or two insurers has been a constant criticism Republicans -- fairly or or not -- lobbed against Affordable Care Act and they haven’t stopped now, as GOP leaders beg rank-and-file members to support their controversial repeal legislation, the American Health Care Act.

The shrinking presence of insurers in certain parts of the country -- and particularly in rural regions -- is a major problem. But the structural issues pushing them out are largely untouched by the Republican legislation. On top of that, the way a key element of the bill, its tax credits, is structured exacerbates the dynamics. The few provisions GOPers can highlight in the legislation that could make insurance cheaper could have the opposite effect in rural areas, health care policy experts tell TPM.

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Approximately 12.2 million people enrolled in individual insurance plans for the 2017 plan year through the Obamacare exchanges, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said Wednesday. About 9.2 million of those enrollees used the federally-operated marketplace, Healthcare.gov, and 3 million enrolled via state-based exchanges, CMS' final report said.

The enrollment numbers were down from last year's plan year, particularly in the Healthcare.gov marketplace, which saw 400,000 fewer enrollees this year than for the 2016 plan year. The Trump administration drew fire from both ACA supporters and the insurance industry when it scaled back the government's outreach efforts in the final days of the open enrollment period.

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On the heels of a Congressional Budget Office report that showed that the coverage levels for older health care consumers and low income people would take an especially hard hit under the GOP's health care legislation, Republican Senators said Tuesday that they were working on an amendment to the bill that would make the tax credits more generous for certain people on the non-group market.

“There are things we can do to tailor the tax credit in a way to make it more attractive to people and more helpful to people on the lower end, with a phaseout that's a little less steeper than what the House has," Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told reporters Tuesday.

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