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Alice Ollstein

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.

Articles by Alice

On Wednesday the House and Senate hold the first public conference committee meeting to iron out significant differences on the GOP tax bills — though Republican lawmakers and their staffs have already been negotiating behind closed doors for several days. Just before going into the conference, lawmakers announced they had tentatively struck a deal on changes to the bill that will further benefit the highest earning Americans, including a reduction in the top income tax bracket from 39.6 to 37 percent. 

They reportedly plan pay for this change and others by ticking up the new corporate tax rate from 20 to 21 percent—which remains a major reduction from the current 35 percent rate.

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In the wake of a stunning upset victory Tuesday night by Democrat Doug Jones in deep-red Alabama, Senate Democrats are demanding that Republicans “hit pause” on their fast-track tax bill—delaying a vote until Jones is sworn in so that the voters of Alabama are fully represented.

“It would be wrong for Senate Republicans to jam through this tax bill without giving the duly elected senator from Alabama the opportunity to cast his vote,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)  told reporters Wednesday morning.

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Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) was at Tuesday morning Bible study—a rare bipartisan activity on Capitol Hill—with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) when her aides interrupted to inform her that President Donald Trump had gone after her on Twitter as a “lightweight” who “would do anything” for campaign donations.

Gillibrand and other Democrats immediately denounced the President’s post as a “slur” against her that implied an exchange of sexual favors for money. But Rounds and other Republicans asked about the exchange on Tuesday largely refused to comment, either claiming not to have seen the message or playing it down as unimportant.

“I think it’s simply one of those cases where it’s best if we look at what the President does and not pay attention to the tweets,” Rounds told reporters with a shrug.

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Since the day he was sworn into office, President Donald Trump and his administration have gone to significant lengths to weaken, undermine and attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This week will demonstrate how effective their tactics have been.

For millions of people in the 39 states that depend on Healthcare.gov for open enrollment, the deadline to sign for health insurance for 2018 is Friday, Dec. 15.

“This week is the entire ball game,” the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt told TPM. “A growing enrollment means a healthier risk pool. Declining enrollment means a sicker risk pool. What happens this week will also determine the political narrative about whether the ACA is succeeding or failing.”

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When the House and Senate passed different versions of a bill to slash corporate tax rates and eliminate the deductions millions of people depend upon, GOP lawmakers insisted that the bill would pay for itself and then some. They presented no evidence to back up this claim, and multiple reports from government experts and outside groups found instead that the bills would increase the federal deficit by at least $1 trillion.

The Treasury Department promised to release an analysis ahead of last week’s Senate vote, but it was nowhere to be seen, and whistleblowers at the Department told the New York Times they were never even instructed to crunch the numbers. On Monday, after the department’s inspector general opened an investigation into the whereabouts of the promised report and whether Secretary Steve Mnuchin was attempting to mislead the public about the impact of the tax plan, the Treasury Department quietly released a one-page document.

Treasury’s quickie analysis is basically in agreement with other respected assessments of what the tax cuts will do to the deficit absent economic growth: reduce tax revenue by $1 trillion. But the Treasury analysis accepts as a given the White House’s projection for 2.9 percent economic growth over 10 years, which turns that $1 trillion addition to the deficit into a $300 billion net gain in government revenue. But even the rosy Treasury analysis conceded that the tax cuts alone will not spur this growth.

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With government funding set to expire on Friday, the House of Representatives voted late Thursday afternoon to pass a two-week “continuing resolution” to keep the lights on until December 22. Nearly every single Democrat voted against the bill and nearly every Republican voted for it.

About an hour later, the Senate followed suit.

The short-term deal leaves a host of issues unresolved, including funding for the entire federal government for next year, the status of roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, and the long-term fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired in October.

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After eight women came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment over the past few weeks, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) took to the Senate floor Thursday morning announcing his resignation from his Senate in the “coming weeks.”

“Serving in the United States Senate has been the honor of my life,” Franken said, choking up as he read his remarks, and vowing to stay active in public life. “I may be resigning my seat, but I’m not giving up my voice.”

With his staff lining the wall of the Senate chamber, waving at him in support, and several of his Democratic colleagues watching his remarks with grim expressions, Franken noted that “all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously,” but defiantly claimed that some of the allegations against him are “simply not true.”

Of his previous apologies, Franken said: “I think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very different.”

“I know who I really am,” he declared.

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The controversial GOP tax overhaul passed the Senate by a razor-thin margin of 51 votes over the weekend, and the lawmakers who reluctantly put the bill over the top say their votes were secured by promises from President Trump and Republican leadership on an array of related and un-related issues—from health care market stabilization to protection for young immigrants.

Today, those promises are on shaky ground.

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As Republicans in the House and Senate hash out their tax bill differences in a conference committee behind closed doors, with the goal of producing a final bill before the holiday break, conservative economists tell TPM that the policies likely to become law will wreak havoc on the country for many years to come. Though Republicans insisted repeatedly over the past few weeks that the $1.4 trillion in tax cuts, most of them geared toward wealthy individuals and corporations, would pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth, they presented no evidence to support their claims.

Instead, the economists and former government officials predicted, the bill will drive up the federal deficit, shrink and destabilize the health care market, exacerbate already historic income inequality, and pressure Congress to make deep cuts to the social safety net and government programs.

“I don’t see how this bill makes America great again,” said Bill Hoagland, a self-described “deficit hawk” Republican who worked for decades for the Senate Budget Committee and now serves as the senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center. “With the populist direction the country has gone in this year, it just doesn’t seem right to give big corporations a permanent tax cut and not individuals. And it’s an open question with those companies—will they translate that back into actual jobs and not into stock options and buybacks?” 

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