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The Massachusetts state House has passed the bill to create a temporary appointment to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, a crucial step in Democratic efforts to fill the seat before the January special election, and in the midst of the big health care debates.

The Boston Globe reports that the vote 97 in favor, to 58 against.

This is not the end of the road, however. The bill now proceeds to the state Senate, where it could potentially be held up through procedural maneuvers by Republicans. The GOP has pointed out that Dems themselves changed the law to get rid of appointments back in 2004, when John Kerry was running for president and Republican Mitt Romney was governor.

In other news in this race, Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca has declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. The Dem nominee, whoever it is that wins the December 8 primary, will be the heavy favorite in January -- a Suffolk poll has Dem state Attorney General Martha Coakley leading GOP state Sen. Scott Brown by 54%-24%.

Appearing on CNBC today, Senate Finance Committee member Olympia Snowe (R-ME) had some very flattering things to say about President Obama and his approach to health care--particularly with respect to his willingness to compromise on the public option and other issues.

"He's been very realistic in his views on health care," she said. "And he understands that there are fundamental differences and disparate views and how controversial they can be. The fact is, I've gotten the impression he would probably do less than more."

On the public option, she added "I've sensed from the outset that he might be far more flexible on that question."

Many months ago when I had an initial discussion with him on health care itself.

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On Sept. 16, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute held a black tie gala with President Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Earlier in the day, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), singer Marc Anthony and his wife Jennifer Lopez speak before a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Capitol Hill.

Newscom/UPI/Kevin Dietsch




Pelosi, Anthony, Lopez and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).

Newscom/UPI/Kevin Dietsch




State Speaker Ben Lujan (D-NM), at the gala, themed "Latinos Leading in the Arts."

Newscom/WENN.com/Carrie Devorah




Rep. José Serrano (D-NY).

Newscom/WENN.com/Carrie Devorah




Miss Puerto Rico and Miss District of Columbia.

Newscom/WENN.com/Carrie Devorah




President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Newscom/SIPA/Dennis Brack




Obama said the proudest moment of his presidency was when Sotomayor was sworn in. "As she lifted her right hand to take the oath, our nation took one step closer to fully realizing the founding ideals that the court itself was established to defend. And across America, millions of children's sights are now set higher; their dreams are a little bigger. That benefits all of us," he said.

Newscom/SIPA/Dennis Brack




Sotomayor, Marc Anthony and J.Lo. The CHCI honored Puerto Rican singer Marc Anthony with a lifetime achievement award and later, Sotomayor took to the dance floor.

Newscom/SIPA/Dennis Brack




The First Couple.

Newscom/SIPA/Dennis Brack

Gerald Walpin wants his old job back -- right now.

The former inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service, who was fired by the White House, filed a lawsuit in June alleging the firing was unlawful and politically motivated.

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As you can imagine, conservative pundits have not been taking kindly to President Obama's decision to scrap the Bush administration's planned missile defense sites in Eastern Europe.

National Review is turning into a hub of criticism. In its official editorial, the magazine says that any possible decrease in the relevant threat from Iran would have happened because of this program itself -- and they favorably quote the wisdom of Don Rumsfeld:

If Iran has in fact slowed down its work in this area -- a claim that national-security experts have questioned -- it may have been in response to American determination to construct a NATO-approved system in Eastern Europe. Today's announcement may persuade Tehran to reconsider and look for ways to exploit a new vulnerability. As Donald Rumsfeld once warned, weakness is provocative.

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Former President Carter, who brought race to the forefront this week by saying the animosity toward President Obama is racially motivated, said Wednesday that he hopes future political leaders will condemn racist attacks.

"My hope is, and my expectation is, that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the President of the United States," Carter said to a group of students at Emory University.



Despite attacks from conservatives and denials from the White House, Carter continued to assert that some personal attacks on Obama are based on his skin color.

"When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the President of the United States as an animal, or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kind of things are beyond the bounds of the way presidents have ever been accepted, even with people who disagree," he said. "And I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been inlfuenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be President because he is African-American. It is a racist attitude."

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It's not ironclad, but it's the first strong sign that Sen. Max Baucus' health care reform bill might win the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) when all's said and done.

She, along with Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) have released a joint statement 'commending' Baucus' efforts and saying, basically, if consensus is to be found, it will be here.

"We commend Chairman Baucus for his efforts to forge a health care reform proposal that has the potential to gain broad bipartisan support," the statement reads. "While we each have outstanding concerns we wish to see addressed, Senator Baucus has taken an important and critical step forward with this legislation, which is budget neutral and reduces future health care costs according to CBO."

This isn't the same thing as a wholesale endorsement of the bill, but it's a step in that direction from Snowe, who just yesterday was emphasizing her concerns. You can read the entire statement below the fold.

Late update: Chuck Todd reads a bit more into the statement than I do.

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Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) issued the following statement regarding Max Baucus' health reform bill Thursday. Here's the full text:

"We commend Chairman Baucus for his efforts to forge a health care reform proposal that has the potential to gain broad bipartisan support. We are encouraged by his commitment to work with both Democrats and Republicans in the Finance Committee, and believe there is a responsibility for both sides of the aisle to work together to develop a bill that will earn strong support from the full Senate.

"Despite the differences that have emerged in this health care debate, there is much that we all agree on, including insurance market reforms that bar insurance companies from discriminating against people based on their health status or denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions. We also agree on prevention and wellness investments, critical delivery reforms like paying for quality rather than quantity, increasing access to care by improving health care provider training programs, and reducing uncompensated care by extending tax credits to American families to help pay for their health care coverage.

"Each of us has an obligation to put aside partisan views and to consider how health care reform addresses the needs and challenges faced by individual citizens and our economy as a whole. While we each have outstanding concerns we wish to see addressed, Senator Baucus has taken an important and critical step forward with this legislation, which is budget neutral and reduces future health care costs according to CBO. We will continue to work together in the full Senate on bipartisan health care reform that reduces costs, improves care, and expands access."

The new Rasmussen poll in Virginia finds that Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds is closing the gap against Republican Bob McDonnell -- and that McDonnell's hard-right grad school thesis could be sinking in further with the public.

The numbers: McDonnell 48%, Deeds 46%, within the ±4.5% margin of error.

Two weeks ago, when the thesis story had just broken, McDonnell was ahead 51%-42%. At the time, the pollster's analysis said it was possible that the thesis could become a bigger factor.

And here's the analysis of the new survey: "Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters now say the writings are at least somewhat important in terms of how they will vote. That's up from 36% in the previous survey. The number of unaffiliated voters who consider the writings important is up to 47%."

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