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

The news that President Trump had abruptly fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson while he was on an overseas trip hit Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, as details trickled out throughout the day about the unclear circumstances of the ouster and what will happen in the weeks ahead.

“The State Department is in chaos,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) exclaimed to reporters, shaking his head as he stepped on the escalator in the Capitol’s basement.

Reacting to the news about Tillerson and another top State Department official fired Tuesday for contradicting the White House’s version of events, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) quipped: “At the rate this administration is hemorrhaging staff, pretty soon the President’s barber is going to play a big role in American foreign policy.”

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Lawmakers see the omnibus budget that must pass Congress in the next two weeks as the last opportunity to mitigate some of the damage that has been done to the individual market over the last year — both through the administration’s regulatory actions and Congress’ repeal of the individual mandate. But it’s far from a sure thing that the omnibus will pass. Conservative groups are railing against health care-stabilization bills, the White House is demanding that poison pills be included, and legislation relating to a bunch of other hot-button issues — from immigration to gun control — is threatening to drag the omnibus down. Prospects are grim even for policies that would save the government money and bring down insurance premiums.

As the federal government continues to throw up its hands over Obamacare, states are moving rapidly to make their own changes.

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A group of immigrants whose Temporary Protected Status was revoked by President Trump, and their U.S. citizen children, filed a class action lawsuit against the Trump administration on Monday afternoon at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Lawyers on the case tell TPM that the immigrant parents, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades, are challenging the abrupt cancelation of their status as arbitrary and a violation of their right to due process. They are also arguing, citing President Trump’s infamous “shithole” comment and other disparaging remarks about immigrants, that the administration’s decision was unconstitutionally based on racial animus.

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The government transparency group American Oversight sued CMS Administrator Seema Verma and the Department of Health and Human Services on Friday after the agency refused to hand over Verma’s communications and ethics waivers regarding her involvement in major state Medicaid decisions that she previously worked on as a private consultant.

The lawsuit comes after HHS refused to respond to five FOIA requests the group filed last August and four updated requests submitted this January, and after reports that Verma violated her recusal from Kentucky’s Medicaid waiver decision.

As Verma’s CMS moves aggressively to green-light state efforts to impose work requirements, lifetime limits, premiums and other fees and restrictions on their Medicaid programs, American Oversight and congressional committees have attempted to investigate whether Verma has any conflicts of interest.

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Since coming into power last year, the Trump administration has worked to undermine and chip away at the Affordable Care Act, repealing some key provisions and encouraging states to push the envelope on cutting back their Medicaid expansions under Obamacare. But in a letter to Idaho on Thursday, CMS Administrator Seema Verma drew a red line, saying the state cannot move forward with its plan to defy the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

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Congressional Republicans’ hopes that President Trump would back down from his threat to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports were dashed Thursday when the President signed an executive order implementing the tariffs and suggested more global trade upheaval in the months to come.

“I’ll have a right to go up or down depending on the country,” he said. “We’re going to be very flexible. We’re going to see who is treating us fairly.”

In response, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) sail Thursday that he will soon draft a bill to block the tariffs from taking effect, calling Trump’s move “a marriage of two lethal poisons to economic growth – protectionism and uncertainty.”

“Trade wars are not won, they are only lost,” he said in a statement. “Congress cannot be complicit as the administration courts economic disaster. I will immediately draft and introduce legislation to nullify these tariffs, and I urge my colleagues to pass it before this exercise in protectionism inflicts any more damage on the economy.”

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Joseph Hunt, the current chief of staff for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is up for confirmation to be Assistant Attorney General running the Civil Division. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats grilled Hunt on his role in a number of scandals from the past year, including the firing of FBI Director James Comey, and Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the ongoing Russia investigation.

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President Trump’s seeming declaration of a protectionist trade war, which already has ally nations threatening retaliation, has Republicans on Capitol Hill in a sweat.

But while some are agitating for the passage of a bill that would curtail the White House’s power on trade, others say the caucus lacks the political will to openly defy the President. Instead, most GOP lawmakers are urging their pro-free trade allies in the administration to coax Trump back from the ledge, and are crossing their fingers that the famously flexible President changes his mind so no action on their part is necessary.

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New polls show that, when it comes to health care, voters are most worried about rising costs heading into the 2018 midterms, and plan to hold Republicans responsible for them. Amid these concerns, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are readying a final push to pass an Obamacare stabilization bill that is aimed at lowering premiums in the individual market. There is no guarantee they’ll get it done; even if they do, it’s unclear how far a federal reinsurance program could go in reversing the damage to the market that has already been caused by a host of Trump administration policies.

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