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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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The answer to the question of whether Ted Cruz is eligible to be president of the United States lies deep in the recesses of English political history, according to a constitutional law expert who has researched the issue.

Mary Brigid McManamon, a law professor at Widener University’s Delaware Law School, makes the case that Ted Cruz is not eligible to be president because “natural born citizen” applies only to those born within U.S. territories. She wrote a Washington Post op-ed this week arguing as such, and previously wrote a 2014 legal paper on the topic.

What is certain is that the Constitution's definition of “natural born citizen” has not been tested and remains open to interpretation. As Michael Ramsey, a former clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia, put it in a 2013 essay otherwise defending Cruz’s eligibility: “[I]t's a mystery to me why any one thinks it's an easy question.”

TPM talked with McManamon by phone Wednesday to ask her a few more questions about her theory, which she said rested on English common law stretching all the way back to 1350.

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President Obama spent much of his 2016 State of the Union addressing -- in thinly veiled language -- the Republican rhetoric in the race to replace him. But in doing so, he left out or glossed over some major Democratic policy positions, including policies that have been priority of his own administration.

Weeks after Obama signed executive orders refortifying gun laws, his biggest State of the Union statement on gun violence was visual: an empty seat in first lady Michelle Obama's viewing box to represent victims. In the speech itself gun violence was mentioned only once, when Obama was making the point that the speech wouldn't be a traditional State of the Union.

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President Obama promised a “non-traditional” State of the Union and indeed, his remarks in the U.S. Capitol sounded less like the usual laundry list of policy priorities and more like the President’s response to some of the gloom-and-doom rhetoric being bandied about on the 2016 campaign.

“I don’t want to talk just about the next year. I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond,” Obama said.

Though he didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, some of Obama’s strongest lines were geared specifically at the GOP frontrunner’s proposals -- including deporting undocumented immigrants and banning Muslim immigration -- in the name of “making America great again.”

In particular, Obama denounced the recent anti-Muslim rhetoric espoused not just by Trump but by others in the GOP field. He also rebutted claims that the economy was in decline or that the country was no longer safe from foreign threats.

Here are those and other shots he took at Trump:

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Louisiana is now the latest state to participate in Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, with Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signing an executive order implementing the expansion Tuesday. The state is aiming for the program to be in effect by July 1, according to The Hill.

Edwards was sworn into office Monday, and Tuesday was his first full day in office.

Edwards defeated U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) in November to succeed Republican Bobby Jindal -- an ardent Obamacare opponent -- in the governor's mansion. Edwards made expanding Medicaid a focal point of his campaign.

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Sen. Ted Cruz has found himself an unlikely ally in the ongoing birther debate in Cass Sunstein, a former White House official, who wrote in a Bloomberg View op-ed Tuesday, "On the merits, I agree with Cruz."

His op-ed comes as Donald Trump and other Republicans -- and even some legal experts -- have raised concerns that because Cruz was born in Canada, he does not meet the "natural born citizen" requirement to run for president under the Constitution.

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The Washington Post published an op-ed Tuesday by a constitutional law professor who asserts that due to his Canadian birth, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is not a natural born American citizen and thus is ineligible under the Constitution to be president.

"Let me be clear: I am not a so-called birther. I am a legal historian," Mary Brigid McManamon -- a constitutional law professor at Widener University’s Delaware Law School -- wrote.

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Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said that "it’s a question" whether Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) Canadian birth makes him ineligible for the presidency and is showing no interest in passing the type of legislation that helped Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) when similar concerns were raised about his birth on a U.S. military base in Panama.

“When Laurence Tribe says it’s a question, it’s a question,” McCaskill told the New York Times, referring to the Harvard Law professor who has been cited by Donald Trump as questioning Cruz's qualifications as "a natural born citizen."

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It looks like Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) will be following through on at least one of his anti-Obamacare campaign promises. The Courier-Journal reported Monday that Bevin sent a letter dated Dec. 30 to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell informing the agency he will be dismantling the popular state exchange program Kynect and transitioning to the federal health care marketplace.

The transition will not affect Kentuckians using Kynect during this current open enrollment period that ends Jan. 31, The Courier-Journal said, and Bevin has made it a goal to complete the switch by the end of 2016.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) hit back at 2016 rival Hillary Clinton's recent attacks on his health care plan by reminding his Twitter followers that the head of her campaign had appeared to have endorsed his ideas in the past.

Sanders resurfaced a 2013 Tweet from John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chairman, in which Podesta said, "Just applied online for Medicare. Took 5 minutes. Single payer anyone?"

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) fanned the Ted Cruz-birther flames yet again, telling Fox News Monday that the Texas senator is a "natural-born Canadian" and that it's up to the courts to decide whether Cruz is eligible for president.

"Cruz is a natural-born Canadian," Paul said, according to CNN. "He was naturally born there. The question is, can you be natural-born Canadian and natural-born American at the same time? Maybe, but I think the courts will have to decide it, because it's never really been decided."

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