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

Just a few days after Michigan Republicans walked back their controversial plan to exempt several majority-white counties from its proposed Medicaid work requirement after a widespread backlash and accusations of racism, South Dakota unveiled its own proposal that wades into a similar legal and political fight.

The draft waiver the state released this week proposes the implementation of a Medicaid work requirement for a five-year period only in the state’s two most populous counties, Minnehaha and Pennington, home to Sioux Falls and Rapid City respectively. While the both the state and its largest cities are overwhelmingly white, more than two-thirds of the state’s black residents and nearly half of the state’s Hispanic residents live in the two counties where the work requirements would take effect.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs this week unilaterally scrapped an Obama-era provision in their labor contract, stripping many of doctors and nurses of the right to have a union representative advocate for them at a hearing at which they are being disciplined or fired.

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In his first testimony before Congress as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo was pressed by Democratic House members about allegations that career civil servants at the State Department were targeted for reassignment because of their work under the Obama administration — a possible violation of federal law.

The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Eliot Engel, came out swinging in his opening statement, citing “whistleblowers who have reported to this committee that the Administration has targeted career employees because of their perceived political beliefs.”

When Engel asked Pompeo why the agency has yet to respond to the lawmakers’ request for documents related to these alleged incidents of retaliation, the Secretary of State promised to check on the request, and by the end of this week give them a timeline for obtaining the documents. Pompeo added that if anyone at the Department did engage in such targeting, they should not be employed at State.

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When the Trump administration set about chipping away at the Affordable Care Act immediately upon taking office, it was widely predicted that the policy changes and outreach cuts would create the biggest hurdles for the groups most likely to vote Democratic — including young people, people of color, and the poor. Many months later, new reports on the national uninsured rate suggest the opposite may be true: the Trump administration’s health care agenda is whacking red states hardest.

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Following a widespread backlash including the threat of lawsuits, Michigan Republicans are walking back their proposal for a Medicaid work-requirement policy that would have exempted several rural white counties while falling disproportionately on urban residents of color. The authors of the policy insist they’re scrapping the plan because it would have been too hard and expensive for the state to implement, not because it would have run afoul of federal laws barring racial discrimination. Similar policies, however, are still moving forward in Ohio and Kentucky.

Meanwhile, with rising insurance premiums and other health-care woes threatening the GOP in this fall’s midterm elections, the Trump administration is moving aggressively on two fronts to shore up support and ward off electoral disaster.

On the one hand, the administration is throwing red meat to their conservative base with new rule designed to restrict federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics that provide abortions. On the other, they are trying to appeal to voters across the political spectrum with a package of policies to lower soaring drug prices.

But the two-pronged health-care effort is not yet getting the political payoff the administration hoped for.

The former move, dubbed a domestic “gag rule” for threatening to cut off funding to any organization that even refers women to an abortion provider, has riled up progressive groups, who have already filed lawsuits challenging the new policy. Millions of people receive health care through the federally-funded Title X family planning program — the vast majority of them low-income women under 30 years old. But the policy will be cheered by the deep-pocketed, politically active conservative groups whose support the administration desperately needs — a dynamic that will be apparent on Tuesday when Trump and several members of his administration address the Susan B. Anthony List annual gala.

The recently unveiled drug-cost initiative is also falling flat. Capitol Hill Republicans running for reelection have been largely silent on the plan, afraid to publicly stand up to either Trump or the pharmaceutical industry, whose donations pad many of their campaign war chests. As Democrats slam the proposal as too industry-friendly — it avoids taking the bolder step of empowering Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices — and the industry itself is shrugging at its impact, HHS Secretary Alex Azar has been on an aggressive press tour touting it. “Smart individuals” such as stock analysts “totally missed the boat here,” Azar told Politico. “People need to do a bit more reading and looking, listening and understanding.”

Meanwhile, a few states are responding to the Trump administration’s tepid drug pricing plan by pushing their own agendas. Last week, Vermont became the first state in the nation to allow cheaper prescription drugs to be imported from Canada. But in order for the law to take effect, Vermont would need to get federal certification, and it’s not clear the Trump administration is willing to play ball. Azar has previously dismissed the importation of cheaper drugs as a “gimmick” and implied the medications may not be safe.

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After a widespread backlash, Michigan Republicans are walking back their proposal for a Medicaid work requirement policy that would have exempted several rural white counties while falling disproportionately on urban residents of color.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), told the Associated Press on Monday that he is working on a new draft set to be unveiled this week that does not include the controversial, county-based exemptions and that lowers the number of hours someone would have to work each week in order to keep their health care.

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How have FBI staff fared since James Comey was fired as director last year? The Trump administration doesn’t want the public to know.

A new lawsuit is seeking to force the administration to release the results of the FBI’s February-March 2018 “climate survey,” an anonymous annual review that takes the temperature of worker morale at the agency.

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The State Department Inspector General is looking into why senior career officials who worked on Obama administration priorities like refugee resettlement and closing the Guantanamo Bay prison were temporarily reassigned to menial work processing Freedom of Information Act requests, the IG’s office confirmed to TPM on Thursday — reviewing whether the reassignments were politically motivated.

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