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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

With government funding set to expire on Friday, the House of Representatives voted late Thursday afternoon to pass a two-week “continuing resolution” to keep the lights on until December 22. Nearly every single Democrat voted against the bill and nearly every Republican voted for it.

About an hour later, the Senate followed suit.

The short-term deal leaves a host of issues unresolved, including funding for the entire federal government for next year, the status of roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, and the long-term fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired in October.

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After eight women came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment over the past few weeks, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) took to the Senate floor Thursday morning announcing his resignation from his Senate in the “coming weeks.”

“Serving in the United States Senate has been the honor of my life,” Franken said, choking up as he read his remarks, and vowing to stay active in public life. “I may be resigning my seat, but I’m not giving up my voice.”

With his staff lining the wall of the Senate chamber, waving at him in support, and several of his Democratic colleagues watching his remarks with grim expressions, Franken noted that “all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously,” but defiantly claimed that some of the allegations against him are “simply not true.”

Of his previous apologies, Franken said: “I think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very different.”

“I know who I really am,” he declared.

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The controversial GOP tax overhaul passed the Senate by a razor-thin margin of 51 votes over the weekend, and the lawmakers who reluctantly put the bill over the top say their votes were secured by promises from President Trump and Republican leadership on an array of related and un-related issues—from health care market stabilization to protection for young immigrants.

Today, those promises are on shaky ground.

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As Republicans in the House and Senate hash out their tax bill differences in a conference committee behind closed doors, with the goal of producing a final bill before the holiday break, conservative economists tell TPM that the policies likely to become law will wreak havoc on the country for many years to come. Though Republicans insisted repeatedly over the past few weeks that the $1.4 trillion in tax cuts, most of them geared toward wealthy individuals and corporations, would pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth, they presented no evidence to support their claims.

Instead, the economists and former government officials predicted, the bill will drive up the federal deficit, shrink and destabilize the health care market, exacerbate already historic income inequality, and pressure Congress to make deep cuts to the social safety net and government programs.

“I don’t see how this bill makes America great again,” said Bill Hoagland, a self-described “deficit hawk” Republican who worked for decades for the Senate Budget Committee and now serves as the senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center. “With the populist direction the country has gone in this year, it just doesn’t seem right to give big corporations a permanent tax cut and not individuals. And it’s an open question with those companies—will they translate that back into actual jobs and not into stock options and buybacks?” 

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Two months ago, amid a stalemate over how to fund health coverage for 9 million children and l0w-income pregnant women, Congress allowed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to lapse. As the end of the year approaches, states are starting to panic. A few have already begun sending out notices to families informing them that their children’s insurance may not be available next year. Several have requested, and received, millions in stopgap emergency funding from the federal government—though that too will run out some time early next year. Some have dipped into their own reserves to make sure no child is thrown out of the program.

Now, after passing a tax bill in the wee hours of Saturday morning that economists say will blow at least a $1 trillion hole in the federal deficit, Congress still has no plan on the table to restore funding for CHIP—which would cost the government about 1 percent of what they plan pay for tax cuts.

While the short-term continuing resolution up for a vote this week includes some emergency shortfall funding for states on the cusp of exhausting their CHIP reserves, a deal on a five-year reauthorization is nowhere to be seen.

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In the wee hours of Saturday, after working for hours to rewrite major sections of the bill behind closed doors, the GOP-controlled Senate voted 51 to 49 to pass a bill overhauling the American tax code, exploding the deficit and gutting a key piece of the Affordable Care Act. The Senate passage advances the bill to a conference with the House, where its differences with a version passed before Thanksgiving must be hammered out.

Senators told TPM on Friday that a combination of late night wrangling, horse-trading, and promises for future votes secured the support of enough senators to get the bill across the finish line.

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) confirmed in a statement Friday morning that he plans to vote for the GOP tax bill despite his concerns it will blow a $1 trillion hole in the federal deficit. He said his yes vote was secured by a promise from Senate leadership and the White House to include him in negotiations around a permanent fix for DACA recipients—the hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people whose protections were stripped away by the Trump administration earlier this year.

“Getting protections for those kids is what I hope comes out of it,” he told reporters Friday. “Obviously they can’t commit to do that. But they committed to move forward with me and work with me on it.”

Flake said he was given no promise as to when a DACA deal would be made, saying: “I would like to get it done before the end of the year. You shouldn’t make those kids wait with that kind of uncertainty.”

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Late Friday morning, with the fate of the GOP tax bill up in the air, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell broke his usual tradition of strolling silently past reporters by issuing the single sentence: “We have the votes.”

Minutes later, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one of the key holdouts on the bill, announced his support, saying on Twitter that he was won over by “a commitment from the administration and Senate leadership to advance growth-oriented legislative solution to enact fair & permanent protections for DACA recipients.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who on Thursday laid out several serious issues she had with the bill and changes she is demanding, has not yet confirmed she is on board, telling reporters she would announce her position later on Thursday.

However, Collins said and other lawmakers confirmed she successfully secured one of her major asks: a restoration of a property tax deduction up to $10,000. Whether that is enough to bring her on board remains uncertain, but if Flake and every other Senate Republican save for Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) are in, the tax bill is set to sail through.

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Just a few hours before holding a vote on a bill to fundamentally overhaul the American tax code and kill Obamacare’s individual mandate, senators received a bombshell report from the Joint Committee on Taxation finding that the bill would cost the federal government about $1 trillion dollars over a decade, even when taking into account increased revenues from economic growth.

The report directly contradicts claims by the Trump administration and Republican leaders that the tax cuts would completely pay for themselves, and will fuel tensions in the final hours of the bill’s debate between the GOP’s deficit hawks demanding a revenue-raising “trigger” and those who insist one is not necessary.

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