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At today's Q&A between President Obama and House GOP-ers, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) asked the president a long question about the budget and the deficit.

Hensarling claimed that Obama had increased the national deficit by the same rate per month as Republicans had per year.

But Obama (who continually referred to Hensarling as "Jim") wasn't having any of it.


Talk about fits and starts.

A year ago Democrats committed to passing comprehensive health care legislation; six months ago, it became clear that their project wouldn't go smoothly; one month ago it was full speed ahead; and a week and a half ago it all fell apart.

Health care reform is now on life support. To mix metaphors, it's on life support and the back burner at the same time. How the Democrats' signature agenda item went from a foregone conclusion to a prospect in peril is a tale of missteps and bad luck. No single player or event brought us to where we are today. But if any of the below episodes had gone...more smoothly, this might've been a done deal.

You know how the saying goes: Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan. And you can be sure that if health care reform fails, the people below will make like John Edwards--quick-like.

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Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT) says he knows why the Obama administration is trying alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court.

"They [made the decision] because of the left-wing, liberal ideas that they have, that we have to go show that we are better than anyone else," he said during an interview on Fox News today. Hatch blamed "that liberal mentality" for what he described as an "absurd, stupid approach towards handling one of the biggest killers this country has ever known."

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Sen. Jim Webb is no stranger to butting heads with presidents, but his recent direct challenges to President Obama's agenda have been raising eyebrows and his national profile.

Polls had been closed in Massachusetts for less than two hours when Webb (D-VA) issued a statement putting the brakes on health care reform. He'd voted for the Senate bill, but that was after weeks of pressuring Senate leaders to be more transparent about the process and wavering on whether he'd actually vote to break a Republican filibuster.

Webb's latest critique is of the Obama administration's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City, and he hasn't been shy about calling for something different.

Webb told reporters yesterday that "The people who really want to solve the problems in this country are going to start working across the aisle to get things done."

He cited his fight to pass a GI Bill of Rights and said he's proudest of "what I like to call my own management model, a leadership model" of working with others.

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) announced today that his PAC raised $2,912,697 in 2009.

The Free and Strong America PAC gave $120,746 to Republican candidates, according to the announcement, including $9,000 to Sen.-elect Scott Brown, $6,800 to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and $5,000 to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. The PAC gave money at the state, federal and local level.

The committee now has $1.1 million on hand.

A recent PPP poll shows Romney, in a hypothetical presidential matchup with President Obama in 2012, getting 42% of the vote to Obama's 44%.

President Obama spoke this afternoon to the House Republican retreat in Baltimore, turning the occasion into a lively debate, on national television, between a sitting president and the entire House caucus of the opposition party.

Obama opened by thanking House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) for the invitation: "You know what they say, keep your friends close, but visit the Republican Caucus every few months."

During his speech, Obama went over themes from his State of the Union address this past Wednesday. At once, he simultaneously said that Democrats and Republicans can find common ground on issues such as a spending freeze and tax credits for small business, but he also went after the GOP for voting against the stimulus bill while attending ribbon-cuttings for projects in their districts, challenged them to work together on important issues, and called upon them to support his proposed fees on the bailed-out financial sector.

Then came the really interesting part. Obama began taking questions from Republican members of Congress, a sight that isn't normally seen on television in American politics.

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James O'Keefe and his brand of Candid-Camera activism first appeared on the national stage with last year's ACORN pimp scandal. But the origins of O'Keefe's methods go back to his time at Rutgers, where he launched an alternative newspaper, carried out his first video sting operations, and generally cultivated an image as campus conservative gadfly.

After graduating in 2006, but before he launched the stunt video career that landed him in jail in New Orleans this week, O'Keefe became one of those recent alumni who couldn't let go, hanging around Rutgers' New Brunswick, New Jersey, campus as resident right-wing agitator.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann has raised $1.55 million for her reelection campaign, a spokesman said.

Bachmann (R-MN) raised $591,600 in the fourth quarter of 2009 and has $1 million cash on hand.

The money came from nearly 9,000 contributors, her campaign said.

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Former vice presidential candidate and current Fox News contributor Sarah Palin said last night that the Republican Party should merge with tea partiers.

Fox's Greta Van Susteren asked if tea party candidates would end up siphoning votes from GOP nominees, or if the movement will "merge with the Republican Party."

"They need to merge," Palin said. "Definitely, they need to merge. I think those who are wanting the divisions and the divisiveness and the controversy -- those are the ones who don't believe in the message. And they're the ones, I think, stirring it up."

As we've reported at TPMmuckraker, the tea party movement has been increasingly divided. Much of the friction has been over the national tea party convention to be held in Nashville. Critics say the convention, with its expensive tickets and for-profit organizer, doesn't jive with true tea party values. Yesterday, we reported that Reps. Michele Bachmann and Martha Blackburn have dropped out.

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