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

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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Since November 1, to the astonishment and delight of health care advocates, the daily and weekly pace of Obamacare enrollment has been higher than in previous years.

But a new analysis by the health consulting firm Avalere shows that because the Trump administration slashed the length of open enrollment in half—from 90 to 45 days—signups are actually significantly depressed compared to this point in previous years.

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At a breakfast with reporters Thursday morning, less than 24 hours before the Senate votes to overhaul the American tax code and kill the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said her Republican colleagues have not yet secured her vote.

With the bill still in flux, and furious last-minute negotiations going on behind closed doors, Collins laid out several problems she has with the legislation: the “mistake” of including repeal of the individual mandate, concerns about a “trigger” proposal pushed by the Senate’s deficit hawks, too-deep cuts to the corporate tax rate, and the elimination of most state and local tax (SALT) deductions.

“There are a lot of concerns I want to fix,” she said. “I am not committed to vote for this bill. Who knows what’s going to happen on the Senate floor during the vote-a-rama.”

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters at a breakfast Thursday morning that she secured “a personal commitment” from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that Congress would avoid deep automatic cuts to Medicare and other federal programs that would be triggered by the costly tax bill up for a vote this week.

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Alex Azar, President Trump’s nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services, has taken great pains leading up to his Senate confirmation process to send the message that he’s nothing like his ideological firebrand predecessor Tom Price, who resigned in disgrace in late September.

But under questioning from lawmakers on Wednesday, Azar confirmed that he aligns with Price on the policies Trump has implemented to weaken the Affordable Care Act, including the gutting of the ACA’s outreach and navigator assistance funding, the halving of the open enrollment period, the defunding of subsidies for low-income patients, and the severing of enrollment partnerships with grassroots and state level organizations.

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) walked out of a lunch meeting Tuesday with President Trump and Senate Republicans with a broad smile on her face, telling reporters that promises from the president to support two separate health care bills left her “encouraged” and more amenable to voting to repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate—something just weeks ago she warned would devastate the middle class.

Despite Trump’s purported backing, however, it is far from certain that either one could pass both chambers of Congress. And even if they did, several independent experts have said that both these bills combined would not protect the individual health insurance market by the harm caused by repealing the mandate.

“One of the major concerns I had was the impact on premiums of repealing the individual mandate,” she said Tuesday, referring to government estimates that repealing the mandate would raise insurance premiums by at least 10 percent as healthier consumers leave the market.

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As the Senate races toward a vote Thursday or Friday on a 250-plus page bill to overhaul the American tax code, with no hearings and without a complete analysis of the bill’s impact, a cadre of Republican senators say they’re working “feverishly” on a last-minute rewrite. Skeptical of the wild economic growth GOP leadership promises will make up for all the revenue lost in the legislation, the change they’re seeking would create a “backstop” or “trigger” mechanism to undo some of the deepest tax cuts in the bill after several years if that magic economic growth doesn’t materialize.

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