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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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Judging by the first round of legislation and reported regulations being mulled by Republicans, GOP lawmakers intend to focus on meeting requests by insurers to keep the individual market stable as they move forward with repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on health held hearings on four pieces of legislation, three of which involving tweaks to Obamacare insurers have long recommended. (The fourth bill was a GOP promise to protect the coverage of those with pre-existing conditions, though the mechanism to do so was unclear). Meanwhile, the Health and Human Services Department under President Trump is reportedly weighing regulatory changes to Obamacare that would achieve similar goals.

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Lauren Fox contributed reporting.

With the Affordable Care Act squarely in their sights, conservative lawmakers and activists are beginning to wonder why the GOP leadership in Congress isn't pulling the trigger.

It’s been over a month since the new GOP-controlled Congress came to Washington, and three months since President Trump’s surprise victory secured for Republicans an opportunity to do away with President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. Yet lawmakers, at least in their public statements, have not moved far in their plan to do so, beyond a vote on a procedural first step.

The lack of action -- and even the lack of clarity about what eventual action will look like -- is causing frustration among the GOP’s right flank and its outside organizations.

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Conservative lawyer John Yoo, a Justice Department official under President George W. Bush who authored the so-called "torture memos," wrote in a New York Times op-ed Monday that he had "grave concerns" about President Trump's use of executive power.

"While my robust vision of the presidency supports some of Mr. Trump’s early executive acts — presidents have the power to terminate international agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example — others are more dubious," Yoo said.

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A snapshot of Healthcare.gov enrollment numbers released Friday reveal that sign-ups in the final days of enrollment are down in 2017, when compared to the similar period of 2016.

Between January 15 and 31, less than 400,000 people signed up for plans on the healthcare.gov website used by 39 states, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said. Nearly 700,000 people signed up in the last two weeks of enrollment last year, according to the Washington Examiner.

Altogether, 9.2 million people signed up for healthcare.gov individual insurance plans in the most recent open enrollment period, a decrease of 400,000, according to Bloomberg.

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The Justice Department office that typically advises the White House on legal actions, including executive orders, approved the controversial immigration executive order President Trump signed last week, BuzzFeed reported.

The Office of Legal Counsel memo, which BuzzFeed posted in full, gave a summary of the proposed executive order before concluding that order was approved "with respect to form and legality." It was signed by Curtis Gannon, an acting assistant attorney general in charge of the OLC.

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Two conservative House members issued a shot across the bow against any attempts to shrink the scope of Republicans' repeal of the Affordable Care Act, in a statement that "strongly" encouraged that the coming legislation to dismantle the law go at least as far as a 2015 Obamacare repeal bill.

That 2015 bill passed Congress but was vetoed by President Obama in 2016.

"There’s no reason we should put anything less on President Trump’s desk than we put on President Obama’s now that we know it will be signed into law," the statement, issued by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) Thursday, said. "We strongly encourage that this bill be brought to the floor for consideration as soon as possible so we can begin undoing this law that is hurting American families.”

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To riff on the bard, a Muslim ban by any other name is still a political and legal problem for President Donald Trump.

Defenders of a controversial immigration executive order signed by Trump last week have suddenly taken issue with calling the order a "ban," be it a "Muslim ban," a "travel ban" or otherwise. White House press secretary Sean Spicer went as far as to scold journalists for using the term, even as Trump himself has continued to use the label.

But legal experts, as well as the civil rights advocates suing over the executive order, are pointing to another comment made by Trump, that they say bolsters the case that it is a ban of some sort, and one that may be illegal. Trump, in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network almost immediately after signing the order, said that one of its purposes was to make it easier for Christians to enter the United States.

"It seems to me the soft underbelly of the legal defense is this business about Christians, because not only is that subject to Equal Protection and Establishment Clause [questions] on its own, but it suggests that this is a Muslim ban,” said Michael Meltsner, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law.

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The head of the top trade group for health insurers confirmed Wednesday that the Trump administration had not explained what to expect from an executive order the President signed on the Affordable Care Act, which outsider experts have struggled to parse as well.

Testifying in front of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Marilyn Tavenner, the president and chief executive officer of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), told Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) that insurers had not received any additional guidance from the administration about its plans for implementing the order.

"We do not have any details on the executive order," Tavenner said, after a line of questioning from Warren about whether the Trump administration has gone into more specifics.

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President Trump fulfilled a key campaign promise Tuesday with his announcement that he was nominating federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia's death last February.

"Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support," Trump said in a ceremony with Gorsuch in the White House.

The 49-year-old Gorsuch, currently a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, is a judge known to be in the mold of Scalia, who Gorsuch knew personally.

"Justice Scalia was a lion of the law. Agree or disagree with him, all of his colleagues on the bench cherished his wisdom and his humor, and, like them, I miss him," Gorsuch said at the nomination ceremony.

The nomination comes as the Trump administration has brought chaos to Washington with controversy after controversy in the 11 days since the inauguration. Trump was only able to fill the seat, which has been empty for nearly a year, because Senate Republicans launched an unprecedented blockade of President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland.

Here are five points on Gorsuch and the fight that may come with his confirmation:

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