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Appearing on ABC's "Top Line" Web cast, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) refused to distance herself from actor Jon Voight, who made this remark about President Obama at last month's Capitol Hill Tea Party: "His only success in his one-year term as president is taking America apart, piece by piece. Could it be he has had 20 years of subconscious programming by Rev. Wright to damn America?"

Jonathan Karl asked Bachmann whether she agreed with Voight, or if it was instead over the line. "I like Jon Voight I think he's a great American," said Bachmann, "and the 20,000-plus Americans who spontaneously gathered were there for one reason and one reason only and it was to say 'we want to make the decisions about our healthcare, we don't want government to take over.'

After Bachmann railed against the government taking over the private-sector economy, Karl asked her again: "So you don't think Jon Voight was over the line, right?"

"Just in this year government is taking over about 65% of the economy. That's not America," she responded "We need to look at what Washington is doing. That's why the approval ratings for the president and the democratic congress are plunging so dramatically. The American people don't want this."

Richard Kirsch, leader of the reform campaign Health Care for America Now says there are some nice things about the emerging public option compromise in the Senate...but it's still not a public option.

"Our take is pretty simple," Kirsch told me in an interview. "We're glad to see there's a good public option for people 55 and over, and we're going to work hard to extend that."

Kirsch is refering to the Medicare buy-in, which would allow people 55-64 to pay for the same insurance seniors receive from the government. In essence, that amounts to a public option.

He went on, "We don't view non-profit insurers as a substitute for a public option. We're not going to compromise on our principles"

"Our position has always been that we want a national, robust public option," Kirsch said. "The closest thing we've seen to that is the House and that's our position today.

Health care negotiators have not yet sealed the deal to remove the opt out public option from the Senate bill. Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA)--two health care swing votes who helped negotiate a bourgeoning compromise on the public option--said much still depends on what the CBO concludes about the menu of alternatives sent their way.

Lincoln was reluctant to describe last night's news as a deal.

"There was no compromise," Lincoln corrected, refusing to weigh in on the broad outline on the table. "There were a lot of ideas, where there was consensus that we needed more information to move forward."

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What a difference a day makes.

On Sunday, we learned from a florid Washington Post profile that Neel Kashkari, the Treasury Department's one-time bailout czar, is now Thoreau-ing it up in the Northern California woods. (Sample line: "The moon hits his stubble, which is six days old.") But the very next day, the investment behemoth PIMCO announced that it had hired Kashkari as a managing director and the head of new investment initiatives.

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Senate GOP leaders and the leadership of the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce joined forces today to paint the Senate health care reform bill as a "job killer."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) addressed reporters with dozens of Chamber members lined up behind them, led by Chamber president Bruce Josten.

"This bill is a job killer," Grassley said, summarizing the group's complaints, mainly that the mandates and revenue streams found in the bill would prevent small buisness owners from hiring new workers for fear they'll be forced into a maze of government bureaucracy.

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Police can in some cases track cell phone location by merely telling a court that the information is relevant to an investigation, a legal expert tells TPM -- a fact that may partly explain how law enforcement racked up 8 million requests for GPS data from a single wireless carrier in a year.

An increasingly popular and easy-to-access surveillance tool for police, GPS data is not currently protected by the Fourth Amendment, and the standards for gaining access to the information are murky and highly variable. That's partly because one of the statutes that bears on the issue was passed in the mid-1980s, before many of the technologies involved were invented. And Congress hasn't done much to update the law since.

The issue at stake is the demise of so-called "locational privacy."

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) sat down for an interview with MinnPost, and among other things was asked why she is the object of so much loathing among liberals.

"I don't know. I'm a lovable little fuzz ball!" said Bachmann. "I have no idea what they would have to fear. I guess you would have to ask them; they would have the better answer to your question. I am doing my job. That's what I was elected to do. I don't fear the left, and maybe that's part of the loathing that they feel toward me. I'm not afraid to speak out on conservative positions and on issues. We're a deep-blue state, we're a strong liberal, Democrat state."

Bachmann has previously wondered why Democrats don't like her. We've collected some of the reasons -- such as her having called for revolution against President Obama's Marxist tyranny, and calling upon conservatives to slit their wrists and become blood brothers in the fight against the Democrats on health care, and many other examples.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) says he's waiting on the CBO numbers to come in before he takes a stand on the new health care reform deal in the Senate.

"I don't know yet," he told reporters today when asked if the new deal has what it takes to unite the Democratic caucus. "I have some concerns myself."

He said he wants to see if the new plan saves as much money as the public option it replaces. Feingold said the CBO reported the Senate public option plan from the bill would save $25 billion.

Feingold said that even if the deal doesn't have what it takes to get to 60 votes, the negotiations have given Senators "psychological momentum" to push ahead to a final bill.


Tuesday December 8, 2009 was the annual holiday Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. This year's tree, the "Aldo Leopold Centennial Tree," is an 85-foot tall, 9,000-pound, 70-year-old Arizona Blue Spruce from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

All photos by Jeff Malet / maletphoto.com




Just before the ceremony, Arizona's White Mountain Apache Tribe Crown Dancers performed, accompanied by these drummers.

Photo by Jeff Malet / maletphoto.com




A White Mountain Apache Tribe Crown Dancer.

Jeff Malet / maletphoto.com




The United States Marine Band.

Jeff Malet / maletphoto.com




Stephen T. Ayers, acting architect of the Capitol, is responsible for the facilities maintenance and operation of the historic Capitol Building, the care and improvement of more than 450 acres of Capitol grounds, and the operation and maintenance of 16.5 million square feet of buildings.

Jeff Malet / maletphoto.com




Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Jeff Malet / maletphoto.com




It is tradition that one child from the tree's state light the Capitol Christmas Tree with the Speaker of the House. This year's winner was 12-year-old Kaitlyn Ferencik from Surprise, Arizona.

Jeff Malet / maletphoto.com




Gov. Janice K. Brewer (R-AZ), Kaitlyn Ferencik, Speaker Pelosi, and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ).

Jeff Malet / maletphoto.com




Kaitlyn traveled to Washington, D.C. with her parents, Erika and Troy Ferencik, and her sisters.

Jeff Malet / maletphoto.com




The Aldo Leopold Centennial Tree traveled 4,600 miles to the nation's Capitol, stopping at 28 towns and communities in Arizona along the way. It is decorated with 6,000 handcrafted ornaments made by Arizona school children.

Jeff Malet / maletphoto.com

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