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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

After a two-weeks of being berated by their constituents at raucous town halls—and watching Democrats come close to flipping two solidly red districts in Kansas and Georgia—members of Congress return to DC Monday. With few legislative accomplishments under their belts so far, they now face a government funding deadline, a debt ceiling increase, demands from the White House to take another swing at repealing Obamacare, and the daunting, likely impossible task of overhauling the tax code by August.

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The Justice Department wrote to eight cities Friday afternoon that have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, demanding they submit proof of compliance with federal immigration law and threatening their federal grant money if they fail to do so.

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A group of civil rights organizations sued Georgia on Thursday, accusing the state of violating federal voting rights law by requiring voters to register three months in advance of a federal runoff election. The lawsuit claims that the state’s policy will prevent “untold numbers of people from voting” in the state’s hotly contested runoff in June between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

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A bill that passed the New Hampshire Senate along party lines and is now winding its way through the state House would impose additional voter registration requirements and harsher penalties for those who violate them. Voting rights advocates say the measure would make it much more difficult for low-income people and students to register to vote, and possibly violate the National Voter Registration Act.

Republicans in the key northeastern swing state have been attempting to pass voter registration restrictions for several years—some of which were vetoed by past Democratic governors or struck down by courts. But with a Republican-controlled House and Senate and a newly installed Republican governor, the measure appears likely to become law this year.

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Over Congress’ spring recess, the news of the U.S. military launching missiles at Syria, dropping a powerful bomb in Afghanistan and escalating hostilities with North Korea has dominated headlines and blanketed the airwaves. Yet inside the rowdy town halls held by members of Congress across the country over the last two weeks, discussion about foreign policy and military action has flown under the radar as constituents largely focused on health care, the federal budget, the Supreme Court, the President’s missing tax returns, and other domestic concerns.

This disconnect, citizen activists say, has several origins: from the abstract nature of foreign policy compared to the immediacy of topics like health care, to the speed of the recent military escalation, which has caught many off-guard.

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Just before fleeing Washington for the April recess, Republicans unveiled a new amendment they said would revive their struggling bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act—a policy based on a program in Maine that aims to bring down health insurance premiums by funneling older and sicker people into a separate individual market subsidized by the federal government.

Though some lawmakers and staff privately admitted it was merely a stunt to create the appearance of progress on the stalled health care overhaul, others insisted the proposal would breathe new life into the moribund bill.

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If any one goal exists that could motivate fractious Republican lawmakers to come together, it should be cutting taxes.

"It’s probably the one unifying issue all Republicans have," said Bruce Bartlett, an economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan and a Treasury Department official under George H.W. Bush.

But as Republicans turn their attentions from their failed health care overhaul to rewriting the tax code, the road ahead is anything but smooth. Even with control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, many political and fiscal obstacles could derail efforts to slash tax rates for the wealthy and corporations.

With deadlines looming for Congress to avert a government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, Washington's insiders are airing doubts that Republicans can accomplish tax reform by their originally stated August deadline, if at all.

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Following reports that President Donald Trump is dumping the tax plan he campaigned on and exploring a host of other options, advocates for Social Security are sounding the alarm, pointing to a proposal to eliminate the program's primary source of funding: payroll taxes.

Though it is not yet known how far along the White House proposal has progressed, those who want to protect Social Security say they are taking the news "extremely seriously."

"Even if this is just a trial balloon, we want to puncture it as quickly as we can,” said Nancy Altman, the president of the advocacy group Social Security Works.

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Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

Congressional Republicans had originally intended to return to their districts for the April recess riding high on the victory of fulfilling their years-long promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Instead, they are returning empty-handed, and will spend the next two weeks hammered by negative TV ads, inundated by frustrated constituents from all sides of the political spectrum, and forced to explain why they haven't been able to pass a bill—or even finish writing one—despite control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.

"It's not the best spot to be in," Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) admitted to TPM last week. "We are the governing majority, and they kind of expect us to say, 'This is what we plan to do.' It will be reasonable and understandable if my constituents demonstrate a level of frustration when I come back."

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