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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

In a video posted over the weekend, a key Republican senator who has helped scuttle previous Obamacare repeal votes signaled openness to voting for some kind of Obamacare replacement plan this week, though she seemed to hold firm on opposing repealing the Affordable Care Act with no replacement.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) is among the most closely-watched Republican senators heading into a highly uncertain week, where the long held GOP goal of Obamacare repeal hangs in the balance.

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Despite no single Republican health care proposal on the table clearing the bare minimum 50 vote-threshold for passage, the Senate is planning a vote to put a bill on the floor — and potentially, all the competing bills — early next week.

Since his acknowledgement that the Obamacare replacement bill the GOP Senate has been negotiating for weeks has failed to win over 50 supporters in his caucus, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s message to members has focused on the necessity of at least getting a debate open on the floor for any health care bill.

The best Republicans may be able to hope for is a series of votes that signal what would have been their preferred approach, so if the final bill fails, they can point the blame at other members.

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A glowing report by the Department of Health and Human Services on an amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that may be a key piece of next week’s health care vote-a-rama came under immediate fire earlier this week from economists and health care experts.

But additional problems with the report have since emerged, with experts saying it makes “unconscionable” and “farcical” assumptions in order to come up with a unrealistically positive outcome.

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For months, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has been a staunch critic of Senate Republicans’ replacement for the Affordable Care Act, publicly blasting it as “Obamacare-lite” because it leaves many of the law’s taxes and some of its regulations in place and allocates billions of dollars for insurance market stabilization that he derides as a “bailout.”

Paul has blocked previous iterations of the bill from ever seeing debate on the Senate floor, and was generally considered an un-winnable vote. But on Thursday, he said he would relent and support a motion to proceed—if GOP leaders guaranteed him a vote on an amendment that would swap in the 2015 Obamacare repeal bill.

Despite widespread reluctance from both moderate and hardline GOP senators, with Paul on board the bill is much more likely to come to the floor next week.

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President Donald Trump’s interview with the New York Times on Wednesday garnered headlines for comments in which he lashed out at his own attorney general for recusing himself from the federal Russia probe and warned special counsel Bob Mueller not to look too closely into his personal finances and business ties.

But the President’s comments on health care—relevant as he involves himself in the Senate’s struggle to repeal the Affordable Care Act—are just as shocking, revealing a deep ignorance of the basic parameters of the American health care system.

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Amid the chaos on Capitol Hill around health care—including the scheduling of an emergency late-night meeting and Senate leaders’ promise to hold a vote early next week—the Congressional Budget Office issued a surprise announcement Wednesday afternoon that it will unveil its analysis of a plan some lawmakers favor to repeal Obamacare immediately and delay the formulation of a replacement plan.

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The tweaked and re-tweaked Obamacare repeal bill is all-but-dead by Senate leaders’ own admission, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) hopes a new analysis of his amendment to that bill could help return it to the land of the living.

As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office continues to wrestle with scoring Cruz’s proposal, which would allow insurers to sell cheap, bare-bones plans that do not comply with Obamacare’s regulations, a draft report put together by the Department of Health and Human Services that became public Wednesday afternoon gave it a glowing review—asserting the policy would lower health insurance premiums and boost enrollment across the board.

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The collapse of Senate Republicans’ Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C on health care has left the party adrift, with a bitter taste in their mouths and no clear path forward.

“Back to the drawing board,” quipped Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) after a long lunch meeting behind closed doors with the full Republican caucus.

Leadership is calling for a vote next week on a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act with no replacement ready at hand. The move would give cover to conservative senators who want to go home and tell their constituents they did their best to keep seven years of promises to kill Obamacare, and to moderate senators who want to tell voters they voted to save their Medicaid and tax credits. But with three members staunchly opposed and a fourth in the hospital, the move is almost certain to fail.

“It’s hard,” Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), whose job is it to muster the votes, laughed wearily Tuesday afternoon. When asked what will change between now and the vote, he ducked into an elevator and called out to reporters as the golden doors slid shut: “The passage of time.”

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