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Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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Pope Francis quietly met Wednesday evening with the Little Sisters of the Poor, the order of Catholic nuns suing the Obama administration over its contraceptive mandate, Forbes reported.

The meeting was short and largely under the radar compared to other stops on the pope's itinerary, but the Vatican signaled that the unscheduled meeting should be taken as an endorsement of the nuns' lawsuit.

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Republican leaders think they have a plan to avert a government shutdown. They now just have to hope that the hardliners pushing for one won't find a way to thwart it -- and there are many ways they could make things go wrong.

With a week to go before the deadline to pass a spending bill expires, GOP leaders in the House and Senate must guide a short-term funding bill through a delicate legislative process. Their plan depends on outmaneuvering the group of 30 or so conservative lawmakers vowing to block any funding legislation that includes money for Planned Parenthood. They must also sidestep Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who is openly threatening to make trouble in the Senate.

In the end, even the best-laid plans would only get a stop-gap bill through Congress. A long-term deal would still need to be worked out, and deep divisions remain unbridged. But it would buy time, avoid a needless government shutdown, and forestall the political firestorm Republicans would face heading into the 2016 elections.

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The hard-right caucus reportedly plotting a coup against House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) may think they are standing up for conservative principals. But members of their own party see their antics as a boon to Democrats.

"The right-wing Marxist [sic] have teamed up with Pelosi. They’re the ones who always team up with Pelosi. They are the Pelosi Republicans,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), a Boehner ally, told The Hill. “The Freedom Caucus is an arm of Pelosi.”

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While other Republicans have sought to distance themselves from Ben Carson's stance that he would not support a Muslim in the White House, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) -- an influential figure in the Iowa GOP primary -- said the comments would likely help Carson in the state.

“I wouldn’t expect those remarks would hurt Dr. Carson in Iowa. I think they help him,” King said, according to The Washington Post. “The people on our side who pay any attention to this at all understand sharia is incompatible with the Constitution and that a sincerely devout Muslim — I might say, a devout Islamist — cannot seriously give an oath to support the Constitution, because it’s incompatible with his faith.”

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Two Fox News interviews about about Muslim "no-go-zones" that aired last January violated U.K. broadcast laws, the country's communications regulator ruled Monday.

Fox News was found in breach of British broadcast code that says, "Factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience."

Additionally the agency -- the Office of Communications or "Ofcom," for short -- said the apologies Fox aired after the fact did not do enough to mitigate "materially misleading statements and the potential harm and offence caused to viewers."

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Club for Growth signaled Tuesday that it would not back down from its ad campaign targeting GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, even as Trump's legal team has threatened a lawsuit against the conservative group over claims Trump says are misleading.

“Tough guy Donald Trump starts whining when his liberal record is revealed,” Club for Growth president David McIntosh said in a statement. “Trump has advocated higher taxes numerous times over many years, just like he’s advocated for universal health care, the Wall Street bailout, and expanded government powers to take private property. Trump’s own statements prove that our ads are accurate. They will continue to run. We suggest that Donald grow up, stop whining, and try to defend his liberal record.”

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After weeks of flailing by House GOP leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) put in motion his own plan to avoid a government shutdown.

McConnell Tuesday announced a vote late this week on a spending bill that would defund Planned Parenthood while increasing defense funding. That bill, scheduled for a vote on Thursday, is expected to be filibustered by Democrats. However, the GOP leadership reportedly hopes that once it fails, proving that Republicans lack the votes to defund Planned Parenthood, the Senate will be able to advance a short-term spending bill, known as a "clean" continuing resolution. It would maintain funding levels -- including Planned Parenthood's funding -- around their current levels for a few more months while lawmakers hash out a larger budget deal.

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Employers say that Obamacare had only a limited effect in their hiring and hours practices, according to a survey conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust.

The report released Tuesday -- revealed that only four percent of the employers with 50 or more workers said they downgraded full-time employees to part-time employees in order to avoid the coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile 10 percent of the employers with 50 or more employees*​ boosted their part-time employees to full-time so the workers would be eligible for coverage. (The ACA requires employers with 100 more or more employees to provide coverage. That mandate will expand to include employers with 50-99 employees in 2016.)

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A new report put out by the Department of Health and Human Services on the effects of the Affordable Care Act shows that the benefits of Obamacare are cutting across all major demographic groups. More white Americans received coverage since October 2013 -- when the law's coverage provisions began to come into effect -- than black and Latino Americans combined. However, the rate of uninsured is dropping by a greater percentage among minority groups than the white population.

According to the report, released Tuesday, some 7.4 million white Americans received coverage -- under provisions including Medicaid, the Health Insurance Marketplace, and individual market coverage -- while 4 million Hispanics and 2.6 black Americans gained coverage in that period.

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