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There may be tea party protesters wandering the halls of Congress, and inundating members' office, by the thousands today--but some of the very people they hope to impact seem to be all but unaware of them.

"Are they doing that?" asked Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), tongue planted firmly in cheek. "Oh good, good!"

Does that mean he's battening down the hatches and preparing for an onslaught? Quite the opposite!

"We're very friendly up there, so I know they'll get a warm reception."

With less than two months to go until Congress breaks for the holidays, the White House and Senate leaders are huddling to figure out how to pass a bill before the end of the year. As part of their push, both camps are meeting with conservative Democrats--most notably Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)--whose unanimous support is absolutely required simply to bring the bill to the floor. But leading Democrats are unlikely to make any progress until these swing-vote senators see the bill Majority Leader Harry Reid put together, along with a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. They say that's necessary before they make any decisions on even the earliest procedural votes, and there's no clear indication as to when the CBO will weigh in.

Last night, Reid met with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and others to discuss, among other things, how far they've come in convincing caucus conservatives to support the bill's public option. "That's one of many subjects, that wasn't the main subject," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Along the same lines, Reid spokesman Jim Manley suggests that this is part and parcel of an effort to move legislation sooner rather than later. They met, he said, to "discuss ways to try and get a bill done by the end of the year."

But with conservative Democrats cold to the public option, and withholding their commitments to allow the bill to be debated on the floor, the White House and Democratic leaders have a lot of work ahead of them and they'll likely have to work in tandem. On that score, this week, Lincoln--perhaps the most electorally vulnerable of all moderate Democrats--met with both Reid and President Obama to discuss the Senate bill.

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A star-studded lineup of New York City Democrats, including former mayor David Dinkins, and former state comptroller Carl McCall, held a a rally on the steps of City Hall today in support embattled Harlem congressman Charlie Rangel.

Citing Rangel's long record of public service, Dinkins told the crowd: "Folks seem to have a short memory."

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The next stage of the Capitol Hill Tea Party has begun -- the storming of the Hill!

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who heavily promoted this event, has frequently promised that this protest will involve bringing conservative citizens inside the Capitol and the House office buildings to personally confront members of Congress. As she said last week on Sean Hannity's TV show: "I'd love to have every one of your viewers to join me so we can go up and down through the halls, find members of Congress, look at the whites of their eyes and say, 'Don't take away my healthcare.'"

As of right now, there are lines coming out of the House office buildings, and people milling about the buildings and getting set to go in. Let's see what happens next, as the town halls and Tea Parties go inside Congressional buildings.

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Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) spoke this afternoon at the Capitol Hill Tea Party, delivering a brief but very energetic speech:

Who will kill this bill? (Shouts of "We will.") You will! You will! And we must! The Constitution of the United States starts with three very powerful words: "We the people." And we the people are speaking! Nancy Pelosi, listen! Fellow patriots, go tell your Congressman, you're not going to eat this rotten stinking fish that is -- Pelosi health care! We are going to put a stop sign in front of her steamroller of socialism! Go to it, patriots!

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) took the microphone to explain how Americans got their freedoms, the freedom that health care reform will take away.

"When I was born I didn't deserve to be born in this country," he said, and he didn't deserve the rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

"I got those unalienable rights because people went before me and went before you and fought for them," he said.

"Read the bill," he yelled to wild cheers. "And then truth will march on."

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), who famously yelled out "You lie!" during a speech to Congress by President Obama, just spoke to the Capitol Hill Tea Party, receiving massive applause immediately as he came to the podium.

"Speaker Pelosi didn't mean for you to be here," said Wilson. "In fact, back in July, Speaker Pelosi meant for the takeover bill to be passed, it was supposed to be over in July. But fortunately the American people found out, they found out that senior citizens were under attack, by squeezing senior citizens half a trillion dollars. Small businesses found out about the taxes that would virtually eliminate small businesses in the United States."

He also credited this past Tuesday's election in Virginia and New Jersey as a sign of the people making a difference already -- and talked about his own experience in New Jersey.

"And then, I know firsthand of the success of the people of New Jersey. On Sunday, I had the privilege to speak at the Morristown Tea Party," said Wilson. "Here I was, a friendly member of Congress from South Carolina, I was simply urging people to vote, to participate in the election to change the incumbent governor. It was sort of shocking, but later that day the incumbent governor asked me, and said I shouldn't have been in that state. But hey, I'm grateful, the voters of New Jersey acted, they produced change. Thank you for being here, we can make more change next year."

At the Capitol Hill tea party today, Reps. Virginia Foxx and Pete Hoekstra repeated the lines that health care reform is a ploy to take away the common freedoms of Americans.

Democrats "wanna take your freedoms away," Hoekstra said, lifting a copy of the bill, bound in yellow twine, above his head. In his other hand he held a pocket copy of the Constitution.

"Madame Speaker, throw out this bill!" he said.

Later, Foxx called the bill a "freedom-killer."

"This Congress is on a collision course with the principles of freedom and liberty that our Founding Fathers bled and died for," she said. "We will not be silenced. We will kill this bill.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) made it clear at the tea party "House Call" this afternoon that President Obama won't be getting his party's health care vote.

"Your efforts to stop this bill are being heard loud and clear," Cantor told the thousands gathered at the base of the Capitol in what some billed as a smaller reunion of the 9/12 rallies.

"Be assured not one Republican will vote for this bill," Cantor said, to big cheers and shouts of "Kill the bill."

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