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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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Tom Price, in his first full week as the secretary of Health and Human Services, has a major decision in front of them: Will he get a head start on GOP lawmakers and take aggressive whacks at the Affordable Care Act that could send the individual markets into chaos, but give the Trump administration a victory against President Obama’s signature achievement? Or will he take a sort of “Make Obamacare Great Again” approach that will keep the ACA exchanges operating and insurers participating, but draw conservative ire?

Though many of the changes Price can make in implementing Obamacare could take months or even well over a year, there a few key moves that will signal which direction he’s heading.

“Given the scope of Secretary Price’s administrative authority, he could either blow up the market or promote stability,” Larry Levitt, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told TPM.

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In a procedural move in an ongoing case in Texas, the Department of Justice, which recently welcomed former Sen. Jeff Sessions as its new attorney general, took a step back from the department's previous defense of Obama-era guidance protecting transgender students' rights.

The brief court filing says that Justice Department is "currently considering how best to proceed" in the lawsuit over the guidelines issued under the previous administration. While the does not affect a separate Virginia-based transgender rights case heading to the Supreme Court, civil rights advocates are already reading into it as a sign that they will no longer have an ally in the federal government, particularly when it comes to the rights of transgender young people in schools who seek to use the bathrooms matching their gender identity.

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An Oregon-based insurer scored a $214 million court victory this week in a case brought after congressional Republicans in 2014 hobbled the federal government's ability to fund an Affordable Care Act program.

The program, known as risk corridors payments, sought to blunt some of the risk insurers were taking on in the first three years of Obamacare's implementation. The program shifted money from insurers that over-performed on expectations to those that underperformed. However, GOP lawmakers inserted an amendment in must-pass legislation barring the government from drawing funding for the program from elsewhere in the Department of Health and Human Services to make up any shortfalls between the money collected from insurers and the money owed. (Florida's GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, pictured above, led the charge against the risk corridors program.)

As a result, insurers, on average, have received around 12 percent of the payments they have been owed.

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The public phone numbers for both the majority and minority offices of the House Oversight Committee now give callers a separate option to complain about the Trump administration, an option that did not exist for the Obama administration.

“[T]his is not typical,” said Jennifer Werner, the communications director for the committee's Democrats, in an email to TPM, when asked whether the Oversight Dems had operated a separate option for executive branch inquiries under previous Presidents.

“It reflects the massive number of calls we have been getting since the election urging the committee to conduct basic oversight of the Trump Administration,” she said.

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President Trump suffered a setback in court Thursday evening, when a panel of three judges decided not to reinstate his travel ban, after a lower court temporarily blocked it. In the 3-0 order, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the states challenging the executive order, Washington and Minnesota, had the standing to sue Trump’s administration and that the administration hadn't proved it was likely to succeed when the full case was litigated. The panel also said that the immigration order should continue being blocked nationwide, citing a 2015 court decision that halted an immigration order issued by the Obama administration.

Here are five points on Thursday’s order:

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Democrats are resisting claims that a Supreme Court nominee's private comments criticizing President Trump prove that he will act as a check on the administration, with their latest shot against the nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, using the White House press secretary's own words against the judge.

"Sean Spicer just made it crystal clear that Judge Gorsuch has refused to condemn President Trump’s attacks on the judiciary," Matt House, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, said in a statement. "That makes an already weak response even weaker, and is further proof that the judge has not demonstrated the kind of independence necessary to be a check on this administration.”

The latest volley between Democrats, the White House and Gorsuch's supporters further muddy the already murky question of whether Gorsuch's private expressions of dismay over Trump's tweets bashing a federal judge will change the political dynamics surrounding his confirmation.

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President Trump will "personally" pay the tab for the weekend he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have planned at Trump's Palm Beach resort, Mar-A-Lago, a senior administration official told Politico.

“The president is personally paying for the Mar-a-Lago portions of the trip,” the official said. Trump and Abe will travel to Florida after meetings at the White House Friday. An administration official told reporters earlier that their together weekend will involve “a fair bit of golf” and “relaxing,” according Politico.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at the press briefing Thursday that the trip had been offered to Abe as a "gift."

"The president has offered as a gift to the Prime Minister, he will be his guest at Mar-A-Lago," Spicer said, adding that the rest of the Japanese delegation will not be staying at the resort.

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Congressional Republicans are inching closer to cementing an approach to dismantling the Affordable Care Act that reportedly will include some replacement measures in the repeal legislation. The effort marks a victory for the GOP lawmakers who lobbied against repealing the law without a replacement, but it’s by no means the end of the intra-party battles. The ability of the replacement measures to work will depend on how much money GOP lawmakers are willing spend on them, health care policy experts tell TPM, and that there will almost certainly be more fights to come.

“The tension between conservatives who want to spend less and moderates who are willing to maintain federal spending on health care to keep people covered will become very clear, sooner rather than later,” Larry Levitt, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told TPM. “The previous repeal-and-delay approach kind of deferred the big fights over money, but this approach would bring those fights on almost immediately.”

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A procedural scuffle between Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) brought back to the forefront accusations that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), President Trump’s attorney general nominee, sought to prosecute voter outreach efforts in black counties in Alabama earlier in his career.

The episode during Sessions' time as a U.S. attorney was among the concerns that sunk Sessions’ nominations to a federal judgeship in the mid-1980s, and it was brought up again by Democrats during Sessions’ attorney general confirmation process. Tuesday evening, Warren attempted to read from the Senate floor a letter from the late Coretta Scott King, a civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., in which she accused Sessions of using “the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.”

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Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) is working on his own Obamacare replacement plan that the House Freedom Caucus will be considering in the days to come, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the chair of the conservative group, told reporters Tuesday.

Sanford's plan will be similar to Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) Affordable Care Act alternative, according Meadows, and the House Freedom Caucus will at some point, likely next week, weigh taking a position on Sanford's plan and the other proposals circulating.

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