TPM News

Obama Making First Presidential Visit To New Orleans President Obama is making his first trip as President to New Orleans today, to review the continued reconstruction process from Hurricane Katrina. While this is the first trip by Obama himself, there have also been 17 other trips by administration officials to the city, and a total of 35 trips to the Gulf Coast region overall since March.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will depart from the White House at 9:25 a.m. ET, arriving in New Orleans, at 12:25 a.m. ET. He will visit with students at the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School at 1 p.m. ET, and he will hold a 2:15 p.m. ET town hall at the University of New Orleans. He will depart from New Orleans at 4:10 p.m. ET, arriving in San Francisco at 8:20 p.m. ET, speaking at a 10:20 p.m. ET DNC fundraising dinner and a 10:35 p.m. ET reception.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) of the Senate HELP Committee released a statement today following their first day of discussions regarding the merger of two Senate health insurance reform proposals. Here's the full text:

Today's meeting was a great opportunity to begin our conversation about a number of key issues. We'll continue to discuss these issues in greater depth over the coming days as we press forward with this critical work with the White House. There was strong consensus that crafting a bill that can garner 60 votes is an attainable goal. We all share the belief that failure is not an option, and we are energized with how close we stand to bringing meaningful reform to our health insurance system. We look forward to meeting with our caucus tomorrow and continuing our discussions next week.

Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) told a group of national political reporters this morning he knows his bid for Florida's open U.S. seat wasn't the vision some Democrats had for the race.

"Look, I'm a walk on candidate," he said. "No one said 'let's go recruit Meek to run for the Senate.'" But the four-term Miami Rep. said he's proven he's the right man for Democrats in 2010.

To prove his point, Meek suggested he's got the support of the most powerful Democrat there is -- President Obama. "I'm pleased with what Obama has done with me early on," Meek said, claiming that he's been "in discussions" with the White House about a more formal role for the President down the road.

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President Obama will rally grassroots Organizing for America volunteers next week with the goal of making 100,000 calls to Congress in support of health care.

TPMDC has learned that while on political travel in New York Tuesday, Obama will join his most active supporters via Webcast into hundreds of "Time to Deliver" house parties arranged by OFA, the spinoff of his presidential campaign housed at the DNC.

The parties are easy, OFA explains: "If you can print out some call sheets and info about the president's plan - and make sure volunteers have a comfortable place to sit -- you can host a successful call party."

The president, who has relied on his campaign supporters to help pass legislation and during hearings for his Supreme Court nominee, will participate in the parties to pump everyone up for a final push.

A Democratic source told TPMDC that Obama will ask volunteers to call Congress to support health care and tell them, "It's up to you to close the deal." He'll also reprise the talking point from the last few days that it's historic and this is the farthest Congress has ever come in the health care fight.

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The big relaunch has been plagued by technical and other snafus, as we've been documenting. But those mishaps may be the least of it.

The new site is at pains to present the party as racially tolerant, and to stress its anti-slavery history. But Michael Steele and Co. have outsourced that task to a writer who has argued that Democrats' "socialist policies have recreated a vile new version of the slave system."

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Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) released a statement today calling for an investigation into the Council on American Islamic Relations, a nonprofit that supports civil rights for Muslims. Here is the full text:

U.S. Representatives John Shadegg (AZ-03), Sue Myrick (NC-09), Paul Broun (GA-10) and Trent Franks (AZ-02) today called on federal officials to investigate the actions and non-profit status of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

In a memo obtained through Paul Sperry's newest book Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that's Conspiring to Islamize America, CAIR lays out plans to place interns in the Committees on the Judiciary, Intelligence, and Homeland Security for the purpose of influencing policy.

In 2008, CAIR was named as a co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism case in Dallas, Texas, which led to guilty verdicts on 108 charges based on funneling more than $12 million to HAMAS. Later that year, the FBI cut all ties with CAIR.

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Appearing today on the Glenn Beck show, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was asked a very blunt question: Does she ever think she would be better off if she just got out of Washington?

"Well sometimes you think that. But then I'd have to look at my five kids, our 23 foster kids that we raised, and realize I have to hand the baton of freedom off to them," said Bachmann. "I have to look at myself in the mirror and ask myself: Did I do everything I could possibly do to make sure our country stays free, under our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution."

Now that Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has joined Democrats in voting to pass the Senate Finance Committee health reform bill, there's been a lot of speculation over whether Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) would join Snowe in possibly supporting a Democratic health reform bill on the Senate floor.

Collins just made an appearance on MSNBC's Hardball -- and didn't really shed much light on her plans.

"The Finance Committee bill is the best effort yet -- due in large measure to the efforts of my colleague Olympia Snowe," Collins said. "But it's not there yet. It falls short."

Collins said she's concerned that health reform legislation needs to rein in costs and not increase health insurance premiums for middle-class families.

Chris Matthews asked Collins whether the White House has been contacting her about her concerns and what she needs to change in a health reform bill for her to support it.

"Yes," she said. "Although not within the last couple of weeks."

Collins said she sat down with President Obama and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for a private meeting in September. "So I'm not seeking more attention," she said.

The Maine senator said she doesn't want to "see a secret backroom deal struck in conference" and instead wants a health care bill "fully debated" on the floor of the House and Senate.

But whether she'd support such a bill? That's not clear at all.

Former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, who is currently the state GOP chairman, is strongly opposing the possibility of the national GOP endorsing former state Attorney Kelly Ayotte for Senate, the Nashua Telegraph reports.

"I hope the NRSC understands that New Hampshire doesn't really respond well to having candidates designated from outside the state," Sununu told the paper.

Ayotte faces a primary against two businessmen, Ovide Lamontagne and Sean Mahoney. And Sununu is prepared to play referee in the primary, saying it can help the party hold retiring GOP Sen. Judd Gregg's seat: "I'm just going to make sure it's a positive Republican primary with all the candidates focused on the shortcomings of the Democrats."

Late Update:: NRSC spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson Marchand gives us this comment: "The NRSC has not endorsed in this race, nor has an endorsement been sought."