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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Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

Senate Republicans, back in Washington after a two-week recess, tip-toed around threats made by President Donald Trump to potentially shut down the government over funding a border wall, as lawmakers negotiate on spending bill that will need to be passed by the end of the week.

While stressing the need for technology and personnel, GOP senators hinted at a shift towards funding a broader border security measure, with the details for what funds actually go to a physical wall to be worked out later.

“I know it’s being generally referred to as a border wall, but I think it’s the efforts that border patrol can have adequate funding for the people, technology and infrastructure they think they need to secure it,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday. “I think we can be less prescriptive about exactly what the structure looks like, and more focused on the fact that we need to secure the border.”

Most Republicans withheld criticism of Trump’s calls for a border wall, which was a central campaign promise during his presidential run, but cautioned that the government funding bill will need Democratic votes to pass in the upper chamber.

“I wouldn’t mind funding a wall, but it’s a question of what we can do up here,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), a member of the Appropriations Committee, told reporters. “We’ve got to do what’s doable, and not shut the government down.”

Appropriations Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS) didn’t go into much detail about the current status of negotiations, but said that “there is some language in there” when asked about the Trump administration’s demands for border wall funding.

Other Republicans were more explicit in declaring that a funding bill that included appropriations for a literal, full-length border wall would be a deal-breaker.

“There will never be a 2,200-mile wall built. Period,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters, calling the wall a “a bridge too far,” whilst laughing about the mixed metaphor.

“[Trump] is never going to get appropriations for that. But he’s right to insist on more border security,” he added.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reiterated in a floor speech Monday that border wall funding would be a “non-starter” for Democrats.

In interviews and on Twitter, Trump has amped up his desire to fund a physical wall, which on the campaign trail he said Mexico would pay for. He and his deputies have floated using payments for Obamacare subsidies insurers as leverage to get Democrats to vote for a bill with border wall funding.

Asked Sunday on Fox News whether Trump would sign a spending bill that didn’t include border wall appropriations, his Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said, “We don’t know yet.”

The pressure comes as Republican legislative leaders have signaled they were seeking to avoid poison bills in the funding legislation, which must be passed by Friday at midnight to avert a shutdown.

Before recess, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of the Appropriations Committee who also is in Senate GOP leadership, said that funding for the wall would likely be dealt with outside this month’s must-pass legislation, as other explosive issues, such as the push to defund Planned Parenthood, were taken off the table as potential shutdown issues.

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), another Appropriations Committee member, said Monday that there are some areas of the border he would like to see a physical wall, but other areas where “you’ve got to have a bunch of technology down there” because “ it “would be very, very difficult to build a structure.”

“I want to get it done, I’m not really married to a particular part getting done first,” Boozman said.

Asked if the White House was on board going that direction, Boozman added, “I think that [Department of Homeland Security Secretary John] Kelly understands that.”

A divided 3-judge panel of federal judges ruled Thursday that the Texas legislature in 2011 drew its state house districts with the intention of diluting minority voters.

“With regard to the intentional vote dilution claims under § 2 and the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court finds that Plaintiffs proved their claims in El Paso County (HD78), Bexar County (HD117), Nueces County (the elimination of HD33 and the configuration of HD32 and HD34), HD41 in the Valley, Harris County, western Dallas County (HD103, HD104, and HD105), Tarrant County (HD90, HD93), Bell County (HD54), and with regard to Plan H283 as a whole,” the two-to-one decision, issued from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, said.

The finding is part of a pattern for the Texas legislature. A voter ID law it passed in 2011 has twice been found to have been enacted with intention of discrimination against minorities by a federal judge—the second time after using a higher legal standard laid out by an appeals court. The same panel of judges who decided Thursday’s ruling also found that the Texas legislature drew a handful of U.S. House districts in way that amounted to illegal racial gerrymandering.

A finding of intentional racial discrimination in violation of the Voting Rights Act risks putting Texas back under what is known as pre-clearance, the VRA process requiring certain states and localities to get federal approval for changes to their election laws. Texas was previously under the pre-clearance regime until the Supreme Court in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder gutted the formula determining the pre-clearance states under section 5 of the VRA.

Time will tell if the judges in those cases will seek to put Texas back under pre-clearance via section 3, which still stands. It is likely Texas will appeal those cases, given its history of fighting voting rights decision against it tooth-and-nail, meaning that the Supreme Court may get to weigh in on the state’s relationship with the Voting Right Act.

Within hours of reports that the members of the the House GOP’s far-right and centrist wings had reached a deal that could bring a failed Obamacare repeal bill to life, expectations for quick and certain revival are already being lowered elsewhere on Capitol Hill.

A senior GOP aide told TPM via email that the question is whether the compromise proposal “can get 216 votes in the House and the answer isn’t clear at this time.”

“There is no legislative text and therefore no agreement to do a whip count on,” the aide said, adding that a full-conference phone call scheduled for Saturday where the deal reportedly would be discussed  “was noticed last week and is routine before we come back in session.”

House Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Tuesday Group co-chair, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) are pushing an amendment to the repeal legislation, the American Health Care Act, which would allow for some limited waivers for states to opt out of certain Obamacare insurer mandates, the Huffington Post reported late Wednesday. According to a white paper outlining the proposal surfaced by Politico, the waivers would be available for states if they could prove their programs would “reduce premium costs, increase the number of persons with healthcare coverage, or advance another benefit to the public interest in the state, including the guarantee of coverage for persons with pre-existing medical conditions.”

Not all of Obamacare’s insurer mandates would be available for waivers, but states could opt out of its Essential Health Benefits requirement, according to the white paper, and its community ratings standards based on health status, but only if the state participated in a high-risk pool. The latter change would likely allow insurers to price sick people out of affording insurance. In theory, high-risk pools could then cover those individuals, but only if funded well above the funding levels currently provided in the legislation, health care experts have estimated. Otherwise, states would likely operate high-risk pools resembling those common in the pre-ACA days, when waiting periods, high deductibles, enrollment caps, exclusion of certain coverage areas and other obstacles were imposed to keep costs low.

It appears that the pressure to advance a quick deal on a heath care overhaul is coming from the White House, based on the reporting of the Washington Post’s Robert Costa.

Likewise, Politico reported that a White House official said that they are “close” to shoring up the votes needed to pass the bill, but “people don’t want to commit without seeing the text.”

A White House aide said he had no updates to share when asked by TPM about the administration’s involvement in this latest round of discussions.

The White House was spearheading previous negotiations around a potential compromise on the bill, which faltered before Easter recess.

Nevada’s top elections official announced Wednesday that her office has evidence that three non-citizens voted illegally in the 2016 general elections, culminating five days of intense speculation about the case but leaving many questions still unanswered.

News of the claims first emerged last week when Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske accused the state’s DMV of abetting the improper registration of non-citizen voters, setting off a public spat between the two state offices. Voting right advocates have been especially concerned, alleging that Cegavske’s directions to the DMV for how to handle voter registration paperwork would violate federal voting law.

Cegavske sent a letter Friday to DMV Director Terri Albertson demanding that she “cease” the practice of accepting voter registration applications from all DMV customers. Cegavske claimed that DMV was acting inappropriately by allowing ID-seekers to also fill out voter registration forms at driver’s licenses offices even if they had presented a green card. Cegavske’s office apparently discovered the instances of noncitizen voting after combing through a list of people who filled out voter registration forms at the DMV who had “presented evidence of non-citizenship,” according to Wednesday’s statement.

Albertson shot back at Cegavske in her own letter Saturday that under the National Voter Registration Act, as well as a formal agreement worked out between the state and voting rights groups, the DMV was required to hand over the applications to the state’s election officials regardless of the applicant’s apparent citizenship status, though DMV employees would indicate whether certain applicants warranted a closer look by elections officials.

The public back-and-forth came after the two agencies had worked together for a year with voting rights groups on a so-called Memorandum of Understanding streamlining the paperwork the DMV used to give ID-seekers the opportunity to register to vote. The same voting rights lawyers who worked on the agreement told TPM this week that they agreed with the assessment that if the DMV started making the call on who is eligible to vote, it would be a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. They said it that it should be up to election officials to determine whether applicants were eligible to register to vote.

The statement Wednesday said that Cegavske’s office had last month obtained a list from the DMV of 100 or so people statewide who, when filling out voter registration forms at the DMV, had presented green cards as identification. From that list, it was determined that 21 had voted, the statement said, but in only three of those cases, so far, had the secretary obtained evidence that they were non-citizens illegally voting.

“The Secretary of State will continue to work with the Governor’s office, DMV, and others in Nevada to ensure that all eligible voters in Nevada can participate in our elections, and that our election system has the upmost integrity,” the statement said.

Between Friday’s letter to the DMV and Wednesday’s statement, Cegavske’s office had given no details to the press, the voting rights groups and other state officials about the initial allegations.

“Given the early stages of this investigation, it is inappropriate for us to comment further.  We anticipate we will have additional information about the investigation in the next few months,” Wednesday’s statement said.

With the end of President Trump’s first 100 days fast approaching, House Republicans appear ready to take another stab at reviving an Obamacare repeal bill that was pulled from the House floor last month due to lack of support and has since has been the focus of several rounds of unsuccessful negotiations.

The latest compromise was worked out between Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chair of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus Chair, and Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), who co-chairs the GOP centrist wing, the Tuesday Group, the Huffington Post reported. It would allow states to opt out of various Obamacare insurer mandates. To receive waivers, states would have to prove that their programs would “reduce premium costs, increase the number of persons with healthcare coverage, or advance another benefit to the public interest in the state, including the guarantee of coverage for persons with pre-existing medical conditions,” according to a white paper outlining the amendment surfaced by Politico. States also would only be able to opt out of Obamacare’s community ratings standards – which prevent insurers from jacking up premiums based on health status – if they set-up a high-risk pool or participate in a federal high risk pool.

From a policy standpoint, the amendment would take the individual health insurance back to the pre-Obamacare days, where insurers could discriminate against consumer on the basis of their health status. If amended as proposed, the GOP bill would technically keep Obamacare’s ban on denial of coverage based pre-existing conditions on the books. But by making the community ratings standards optional for states, insurers could still price sick consumers out of affording insurance. The high-risk pools states set-up to capture some of these consumers would be drastically underfunded if the current funding for them in the bill goes unchanged and it’s likely that states will impose waiting periods, high-deductibles, exclusions of certain coverage areas and other obstacles on consumers to keep costs low for their high risk pools.

From a political standpoint, it’s unclear whether the proposal moves the dial on getting Republicans the 216 votes they would need in the House to pass the bill. Moderates have been deeply skeptical of the legislation’s massive cuts to Medicaid, which would remain in this proposed version. As members began discussing a state opt-out idea before the Easter recess, some conservative complained it was still too much of an infringement on states’ rights to require them to go through a waiver process.

Rank-and-file has also spent the last two weeks at town halls where they were berated by constituents over  their efforts to repeal Obamacare.

Nevertheless, the proposal appears to have the blessing of GOP House leadership, which is a change from the hands-off approach leadership took in the other recent rounds of negotiations. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is expected to discuss the proposal on a conference-wide conference call Saturday, CNBC reported.

As Republicans contemplate this latest change to the failed bill when they return from recess next week, lawmakers will also be rushing to pass a government funding bill to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month.


The National Association of Insurance Commissioners asked Congress in a letter Wednesday to fund the Affordable Care Act subsidies that President Trump has threatened to end in his efforts to pass an Obamacare repeal bill.

“On behalf of the nation’s state insurance commissioners, the primary regulators of U.S. insurance markets, we write today to urge Congress to fully fund the cost-sharing reduction payments for FY2017 in the upcoming continuing resolution, and to commit to fully funding the program for FY2018,” the letter, sent to congressional leaders of both parties, said. “Your action is critical to the viability and stability of the individual health insurance markets in a significant number of states across the country.”

The payments subsidize insurers for keeping out-of-pocket costs down for low-income consumers, as mandated by the ACA. They are the target of a lawsuit launched by House Republicans in 2014 against the Obama administration, and if ended, could send the individual insurance market into chaos as insurers hike up premiums to make up the shortfall or pullout of the exchanges entirely.

A federal judge sided with the House Republicans but allowed the payments to continue while the federal government appealed the decision. The Trump administration hasn’t said whether it will continue to defend the payments — the case has been paused until May for both parties to figure out their next moves — while Trump himself has floated ending the payments as a form of hardball to get Democrats to the table on dismantling Obamacare.

Congressional Democrats have since signaled that they will lobby for funding for the payments as they negotiate a government spending bill to avert a shutdown next month.

Read the full letter below:

Congressional Republicans are about halfway through a hellish two-week recess, their first since their unpopular Obamacare repeal bill was disastrously pulled from the House floor.

So have they coalesced around some talking points to explain why they might need to abandon their years-long vow to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or to address whether they over-promised on a quick replacement for the law? Not quite.

A few House GOP cheerleaders were willing to tout the failed legislation, the American Health Care Act, while chatting with their constituents at town halls over the past week. But many Republicans sought to distance themselves from the bill or, if they were among the hardliners or moderates that revolted against it, even celebrated its demise.

The legislation would have eliminated many of the Affordable Care Act’s taxes, scaled back its market reforms, reworked its tax credits and gutted Medicaid. According to a Quinnipiac University poll, only 17 percent of Americans approved of the bill.

Here is a look at how GOP lawmakers are explaining that Obamacare repeal fail to their ultimate bosses, their constituents:

The “we told you so” caucus: Dancing on the AHCA’s grave

Congressman Justin Amash takes questions during a town hall meeting at City High Middle School in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. (Mike Clark/The Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com via AP)

Perhaps the only Republicans enjoying fielding Obamacare questions at events in their districts are those who were key to the repeal bill’s defeat.

“It didn’t repeal Obamacare,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a vocal AHCA critic, said at a town hall. “It basically restructured Obamacare, and it didn’t resolve any of the problems, and in fact some of the changes would have made Obamacare even worse.”

He also told his constituents that he believed 50 to 80 Republicans would have voted against the bill, adding that, “It would have been really embarrassing.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), who like Amash is a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, also embraced his opposition to the bill.

“It leaves the framework in place. Those of you who like Obamacare, this is your best alternative,” Biggs said at a town hall. 

Some Republicans sharpened their criticism of the bill to how it was rolled out.

“A bad process makes a bad policy. We have to slow down. We have to air this out,” Rep. David Young (R-IA) said.

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) blamed Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) while arguing that President Donald Trump had been “misled” by Republican leaders in Congress.

“It’s a function of leadership,” Yoho said.

Gluttons for punishment: Doubling down on the failed bill

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) talks to constituents in his district. (Screengrab via WLUK)

Some Republicans have been willing to defend their support for the euthanized bill and even expressed optimism that it would be brought back from the dead.The legislation, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) said at a town hall, “repealed about 70 percent of Obamacare, and that’s good enough for me.” As attendees chanted “Fix it,” he shot back, “The only way to fix it is to replace it.”

“We’ll find a way because we have to,” he said.

His fellow Texan Republican Rep. Joe Barton also told constituents that, “Hopefully we will bring the health care bill back up and pass it.”

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) went as far as to suggest that eventually Republicans could even get Democrats on board to vote on a repeal bill.

“It would not surprise me if in five or six months, we have a plan that both Republicans and Democrats vote for,” Grothman said, predicting market chaos that would force Democrats to negotiate.

“I’d still like to believe we’re going to get a similar bill out of the House of Representatives,” he later added.

The optimists: We’ll do better next time!

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., addresses constituents during a town hall meeting in a hall on the campus of the University of Colorado Medical School late Wednesday, April 12, 2017, in Aurora, Colo. Town halls have become a risky proposition for GOP members of Congress since the election of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Rep. Mike Coffman, (R-CO), addresses constituents during a town hall meeting in a hall on the campus of the University of Colorado Medical School late Wednesday, April 12, 2017, in Aurora, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Many Republicans who were more or less holding their noses to support the toxic bill made promises to constituents that they had learned through the process and that they’d do better the next time they take a swing at health care reform.

“If you’re going to be a governing majority in the House Republicans, we have to work through this stuff,” Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) said at a town hall in his purple district in the Philadelphia suburbs. “And I get concerned … finger-pointing can diminish our ability to marshal legislation forward.”

Rep, Mike Coffman (R-CO), who also represents a swing district, called the bill’s failure a “faceplant” while describing the legislation as “a good starting point.”

“I will protect those with pre-existing conditions. … I will maintain that commitment,” Coffman said, referring to attempts by conservatives to hollow out the ACA’s pre-existing conditions protections.

“We learned we need to take more time and get it right,” Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) told his constituents. “We need to explain it better to get the next one passed.”

Tellingly, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the Energy and Commerce Committee chair who helped write the bill, has kept it at arms length while home in his district, according to a report by the Washington Post.

“There is a lot of reform with health care that is being done on a bipartisan basis and will be done on a bipartisan basis,” he said at a town hall last week.

TPM Composite by Christine Frapech. All images via the Associated Press.

There was always a sense that in some states, Republicans’ refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act was at least somewhat rooted in resistance to the President who lent the law its nickname.

Yet one presidential election, a Republican administration and a failed Obamacare repeal bill later, it’s unclear whether the dynamics that have kept 19 states from opting into Medicaid expansion have truly shifted.

The expansion increases eligibility for the program up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, with the federal government paying for the bulk of the expanded program; it will phase its contribution down slightly to 90 percent by 2020, however. A 2012 Supreme Court decision made states’ participation in Medicaid expansion optional, so even in states where Republican governors have sought to expand the program, GOP legislators have resisted tooth and nail, citing concerns of fiscal responsibility and state sovereignty.

Here are five points on what fundamentals underlying Medicaid politics stand to change under President Donald Trump and whether more states will be encouraged to expand:

Some states renewed their expansion efforts amid Congress’ Obamacare repeal push

As national Republicans considered—and ultimately pulled—Obamacare repeal legislation that would have scaled back Medicaid expansion, policymakers in a handful of non-expansion states revived their efforts to opt into the program. In Kansas, state legislators were just three votes short of overriding Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) veto of an expansion bill. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) amped up the public pressure to expand Medicaid there, but was ultimately stymied by a GOP-controlled legislature.

A handful of Republican lawmakers in North Carolina also introduced their own expansion proposal, a first coming from any GOP legislator in the state, as their newly-elected Gov. Roy Cooper (D) continues a court battle to enact expansion without the help of the state legislature. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) met with the Trump administration last month to talk about getting waiver approval for a limited version of Medicaid expansion. And voters in Maine will get to weigh in on the issue with a ballot initiative this November.

At least in the case of Virginia, McAuliffe’s push to expand Medicaid appeared to be in reaction to the prospect of U.S. House legislation to repeal Obamacare and the renewed progressive energy around defeating repeal. Elsewhere, the timing may have been coincidental.

The political landscape didn’t drastically change as renewed expansion efforts fell short

That flurry of activity was not necessarily a sign of national momentum toward growing the Medicaid expansion map, health policy experts and consultants who work with states seeking to expand the program told TPM.

In places like Virginia, the renewed effort to expand was a rehash of old fights.

“Unfortunately, because politics are so strong in the states that haven’t expanded yet, I don’t know if we are actually going to see a whole lot of states make it across the [finish] line in the next six months, potentially the next year or two,” said Laura Summers, senior director of the Medicaid practice at the health care consulting firm Leavitt Partners.

In other places like Utah and Idaho, Medicaid expansion appears stuck in a political middle ground: Always on the burner but unable to to be brought to a full boil.

“Politically its just very difficult to do, particularly in the states sort of on the fence. They have been no the fence for a long time, and so getting them to get over the fence, they just don’t have that push just yet,” Summers said.

Uncertainty around the future of Medicaid expansion is a double-edged sword

For some expansion crusaders, the prospect of Republicans eliminating the program down the road has been a motivating factor. North Carolina’s Cooper, for instance, rushed though an expansion application in the final days of the Obama administration in hopes that it would get done before Trump’s inauguration, but state GOP lawmakers sued and had initial success in blocking him from expanding unilaterally under Obama.

In other states, the uncertainty about Medicaid expansion’s fate may be a reason to hold back, according to Diane Rowland, executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Repeal and replace has put kind of a cautionary damper on, ‘Oh but should we get in before the window closes or if we get in are we stuck before the window closes?’” she said.

Trump loosening the standards around waivers for states may not do the trick

Early on after being confirmed as Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, along with Seema Verma, Trump’s administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, sent a letter to governors signaling that they would be far more amenable than their predecessors to allowing conservatives to impose extra obstacles, like work requirements or cost sharing, on Medicaid recipients.

“On the surface you would think that that would maybe lower the barriers a little bit or make the idea of expanding Medicaid seem a little more palatable,” Kathy Hempstead, a senior advisor at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told TPM. “That being said, when I talk to people in those states, they don’t sound like they think the fundamentals have changed that much.”

Instead, red states that have already expanded Medicaid may be the ones who take advantage of this new flexibility, according to Summers.

“I do think you will see states that have already expanded resubmit waivers to get more of those elements included,” she said.

State-level political shifts are likely to play biggest role in moving the dial

State elections matter when it comes to Medicaid expansion. The election of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), who replaced Obamacare-hater Bobby Jindal (R), allowed to that state to expand Medicaid even in the face of a GOP legislature resistant to the move.

In states where the legislature has to give their approval in order to expand Medicaid, more nuanced shifts in state politics is what ultimately moves the dial. Kansas only came as close as it did to expanding the program after the state’s distaste for Brownback—a deeply unpopular, far-right governor—resulted in many of his allies in the legislature being voted out of office last year in favor of Democrats and more moderate Republicans.

“Certainly in Kansas, they shifted to be slightly more moderate than previously, so obviously state legislative elections matter,” Rowland said. “We see in Virginia that the legislature is still resistant, though the governor has tried one again to [expand.]”

President Donald Trump on Friday announced his nomination of former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), who fiercely opposed to the Export-Import Bank while in Congress, to serve as president of the agency.

Garrett served on the House Financial Services Committee until losing a bitter election last year to Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). Garrett, a Freedom Caucus member, was known for hardline views, including anti-gay sentiments that reportedly prompted him to withhold paying his dues to the National Republican Congressional Committee out of concerns they would support gay GOP candidates, according to Politico.

While in Congress, Garrett also advocated for letting the Export-Import Bank’s authorization expire.

Trump himself was a critic of the Ex-Im Bank, which is the federal government’s export credit agency and has been labeled a form of “corporate welfare” by some conservatives. His views reportedly changed after a meeting with former Boeing Jim McNerney Tuesday, CNBC reported, and he now favors keeping the Ex-Im Bank authorized.

“Actually, it’s a very good thing. And it actually makes money, it could make a lot of money,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal Wednesday. 

In addition to announcing Garrett’s nomination, the White House said Friday that Trump would nominate former Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) to serve on the Export-Import Bank’s board. Bachus chaired the House Financial Services Committee and was a supporter of the agency while in Congress .

Both nominations will require Senate confirmation



The Republican-nominated chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an independent, bipartisan agency, said that voter fraud is “not widespread” and “not an epidemic” while simultaneously playing down concerns about voter suppression.

“The reality—and this data and information comes from those who directly run elections—is that the state and local election officials, and specifically the secretaries of state across the country that looked into it, find that fraud happens,” Matthew Masterson said in an interview with the Center for Public Integrity posted Thursday.

“It’s not widespread. It’s not an epidemic,” he continued. “But where it happens, it needs to be identified and prosecuted.”

His comments come after President Donald Trump claimed without evidence that millions of people voted illegally in the presidential election. The allegation prompted fear among voting rights advocates who worry unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud will be used as cover to pass restrictive voting measures that make it harder for certain populations, particularly minorities and low-income people, to vote.

Masterson (pictured above on the right), who was named the chairman of the commission in February, was appointed to the commission in 2014 by President Obama on the recommendation of then-House Speaker John Boehner. Prior to that, Masterson worked in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office; his boss there, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, was the target of multiple lawsuits that claimed Ohio sought to disenfranchise voters by cutting early voting, purging the voting rolls and imposing strict rules on provisional ballots.

The Center for Public Integrity asked Masterson if voter suppression was a big issue and whether there was evidence of a major effort to make it harder to vote.

“It’s something election officials hear about all the time. I can tell you my experience in Ohio. When we dug into that. It was virtually non-existent,” Masterson said, later adding: “It is my opinion, in the vast majority of jurisdictions today in America, it is easier to vote today than it has ever been.”