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

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told senators at a hearing Wednesday morning that he does not remember ordering his motorcade to use lights and sirens to cut through Washington, D.C.’s notorious traffic in non-emergency situations — such as a visit to the tony French restaurant Le Diplomate.

In response, the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) submitted for the public record an email from Pruitt’s former security chief Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta in February that states clearly that Pruitt “encourages the use” of lights and sirens.

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At a hearing Wednesday morning with embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) announced that he has asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to launch yet another probe into the agency’s actions — this time scrutinizing its Twitter practices.

“I’m announcing this morning that I just requested a new GAO investigation, this one to determine if EPA violated the appropriations law banning taxpayer spending on publicity and propaganda by engaging in political speech via social media,” Udall said.

Below is the tweet in question, which Udall said is also under investigation by Office of Special Counsel.

“I was unaware of the tweet, and it should have not have occurred,” Pruitt told senators on Wednesday.

But asked repeatedly by Udall if he apologizes for the tweet, Pruitt declined to do so.

Udall’s first request for a GAO probe into Pruitt’s tenure at the agency revealed this month that his purchase of a $43,000 soundproof booth for his office without first informing Congress violated federal law.

Listing that and more than a dozen other federal investigations into Pruitt’s actions, including his first class flights, his unprecedented around-the-clock security team and allegations he retaliated against staff members, Udall excoriated Pruitt, saying, “Your tenure at the EPA has been a betrayal of the American people.”

Pruitt replied that “some of the criticism is unfounded and exaggerated.”

Read Udall’s letter:

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The Trump administration’s zeal for making low-income people work for their health care is running headlong into federal civil rights laws.

At least three GOP-controlled states have asked the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for permission to impose work requirements on their Medicaid programs in a way that protects rural white voters and burdens urban voters of color. Kentucky’s waiver from HHS allowing work requirements, which HHS approved in January, will be challenged in federal court this June. Pending waivers in Michigan and Ohio have yet to win federal approval, but some experts tell TPM that if HHS approves them, the states could be hit wiht lawsuits against the laws’ “disparate impact” on people of color.

While the administration is keen to approve Medicaid work requirements and other restrictions that will have the effect of kicking hundreds of thousands of people off their health-care coverage, it has made clear that it won’t approve every GOP-backed measure that comes its way. Already, its rejection of Kansas’ proposal to put a three-year lifetime limit on Medicaid has made other states think twice about their own requests. On Sunday, Arizona announced that it was shelving its proposal for a five-year Medicaid limit. HHS also blocked a bid from Iowa to funnel millions of federal Medicaid dollars into private nursing homes.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s long-hyped plan to “bring soaring drug prices down to Earth” was finally unveiled last week. It was underwhelming. The plan, a conglomeration of executive actions and promises to get bills through Congress, consists largely of small steps the administration has already taken. It is also holding off on taking the step many experts say would make the biggest difference: allowing Medicare officials to negotiate directly with corporations to lower drug prices. (National health programs in many other countries have the authority to negotiate drug costs.) The Trump administration’s plan appears to be a work in progress, as the policy blueprint was rife with rhetorical questions — it contained 136 question marks. As the administration finds answers to some of those questions, it may have more announcement down the road.

On Monday, HHS Secretary Alex Azar hit back at criticism of the document by highlighting two provisions in particular that he says will do a lot to bring down drug prices. One allows for a subset of Medicare Part D plans to give more rebate money back to patients. Another would allow private corporations to negotiate the prices of drugs delivered to hospitals and doctors’ offices through Medicare Part B.

It wasn’t a good week for Trump family-promoted health care initiatives. As the President’s drug cost plan was widely panned, a digital health program for veterans pushed by his son-in-law Jared Kushner received a devastating review from Pentagon investigators. The report on the MHS Genesis software program for managing patients’ digital records cited 156 “critical” or “severe” incidents that could have resulted in patient deaths, and recommended its implementation be halted indefinitely.

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Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) and former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray (D) will face off this November for control of the governor’s mansion in the key swing state of Ohio. NBC, Fox News and the Associated Press projected the candidates would win their nominations at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night. 

Both candidates had the backing of their respective party’s establishments, and fended off challenges from insurgent candidates that tapped into energy from the fringes.

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Congressional Democrats wrote to the Justice Department on Tuesday demanding an Inspector General investigation into allegations that the department has illegally based hiring decisions for immigration judges, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and other positions on the candidates’ “perceived political or ideological views.”

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