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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."

The race to find a challenger for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) is going to be an expensive one. Yesterday, former Rep. Rob Simmons (R) announced he raised nearly $1 million in the fundraising quarter ending tomorrow. The same day, Linda McMahon, one of his challengers in the GOP primary, told reporters she's pumped $3 million of her own money into the race -- and spent $2M of it on ads that are already running.

Running in the Nutmeg State is always a pricey prospect -- eventually, candidates have to run TV ads in the ultra-expensive New York City television market. But with McMahon spending so much so early, Simmons will likely need to start putting his own money where is mouth is before he planned. His fundraising total means suggests he's serious about challenging the self-funding McMahon and has the base of support to make a go of it. So look for big spending by him sooner rather than later.

By the time either of these candidates gets to Dodd in the general next year -- a race national Republicans think they can win and so will probably spend party money on -- the Senate race will have already become a serious cash cow for consultants and media buyers.

Four House Republicans are charging that the Council on American Islamic Relations is infiltrating Capitol Hill with undercover interns, and they're basing the charge on a WND-published book that itself is based on the work of a man who posed as a Muslim to infiltrate CAIR as ... an intern!

In other words, it's Intern Spy vs. Intern Spy.

As Greg Sargent notes, the office of Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) does not have a list of the "Manchurian Interns" that she claims may have penetrated national security-related committees.

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Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said on MSNBC this afternoon that she has not been threatened with punishment by her party for voting with Democrats to pass the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill.

"No, they have never indicated that to me," she told Chris Matthews. "And I've had very constructive and positive conversations with Leader McConnell and others. I've never been threatened. I obviously know that they would have preferred that I voted otherwise. But I have no reason to believe the rumors that have been prevailing with respect to that. I obviously have to focus on what's right."

Matthews then suggested that she might be honored with a Profiles in Courage award from "the Kennedy organization up at Harvard."

Besides that comment about potential punishment from her party, Snowe didn't make much news in back-to-back interviews on CNN and MSNBC. The public option is still essentially a deal breaker for her -- "I would find that very difficult to support" -- and "it's hard to say" whether any other GOP senators might support health care reform on the Senate floor.

Today the House Financial Services Committee began its mark up of a bill intended to impose new regulations on the over-the-counter derivatives market -- whose abuses, excesses and lack of regulation are largely seen as contributing to the financial crisis. While Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) promised before the meeting that "everything" in the "derivative area will be forced onto an exchange" where they'd be traded openly and under the watch of regulators, pro-reform activists aren't taking Frank at his word.

On two conference calls with reporters and bloggers today, Heather Booth, director of the national coalition Americans for Financial Reform, emphasized the need for real reform and cautioned that "the big banks are throwing their weight around in Congress." She urged voters in key districts and states to push their representatives for tough new financial regulations.

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Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told Neil Cavuto on Fox News a few minutes ago that not only does he not support the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill -- but that there are moderate Democrats who also may not.

"A lot of individual colleagues in the Democratic caucus have big questions about this," the former Democratic vice presidential nominee said. "So this isn't over by any means."

Read More →

On October 13, 2009, the White House hosted "Fiesta Latina" music night on the South Lawn. This was the third event in a musical event series launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, and celebrated Latin musical heritage. In his remarks at the event, President Barack Obama said of the genre: "In the end, what makes Latin music great is the same thing that's always made America great -- the unique ability to celebrate our differences while creating something new."

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive on the South Lawn for the Fiesta Latina music night.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Actor Jimmy Smits -- who played the president of the United States on The West Wing -- attended the event.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Mexican pop singer Thalia.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Three-time Grammy Award-winning rock band Los Lobos.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Performers Pete Escovedo and Sheila E.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Performers Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Actress Eva Longoria Parker.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

President Obama said that Latin music "moves us, and it tends to make us move a little bit ourselves."

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Comedian George Lopez and actress Eva Longoria Parker hosted Fiesta Latina. They suggested that President Obama is really Latino, just doesn't know it. Added Lopez: The President "lives in a house that's not his...says he's gonna change and nobody believes him -- very Latino."

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Gloria Estefan and Jose Feliciano perform at the event.

Newscom/UPI/Alexis C. Glenn

Sheila E. also takes the stage with Estefan.

Newscom/UPI/Alexis C. Glenn

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) was among audience members on the South Lawn of the White House.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) speaks to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar before the performances begin.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn /Pool via CNP

Malia and Sasha Obama whisper in the audience during the performance.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

First Lady Michelle Obama.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

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Sasha Obama.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

President Obama wants Congress to approve another year of stimulus payments to 57 million people including seniors, the disabled and veterans, the White House announced today.

The $250 payments would be equivalent to a 2 percent increase in Social Security benefits for the average retiree, according to the White House. The proposal would be an extension of relief for most recipients, but would also benefit 1 million public employee retirees who didn't qualify for previous benefits.

The total cost of the proposal would be $13 billion.

And tomorrow, the Social Security Administration will announce cost-of-living adjustments for 2010.