The Daily Digest (Counties on the front lines of health care overhaul, NSA vote, Peterson challenger)

A good morning to everyone!

With a few months to go before online health insurance marketplaces are set to open, Minnesota counties are straining to carry out parts of the new health care law; an amendment to limit the National Security Agency’s powers split Michele Bachmann from her tea party allies, and a businessman weighs a challenge to long-serving DFL Congressman Collin Peterson.

In Minnesota

Minnesota counties are on the front lines of implementing the new health care law, which has sparked a hiring frenzy. (MPR News)

Gov. Dayton’s staff defended his secret out of state economic development trip. (MPR News)

A Ramsey County judge has scheduled a Monday morning hearing involving Minnesota bear researcher Lynn Rogers’ lawsuit against the state Department of Natural Resources. (Pioneer Press)

Washington/National Politics

President Barack Obama said  that Washington has “taken its eye off the ball” as he pledged a stronger second-term commitment to tackling the economic woes that strain many in the middle class. (AP)

An amendment to prevent the National Security Agency from continuing to collect the phone records of millions of Americans  produced an unusually sharp split between Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann and other libertarian-minded conservative lawmakers. The amendment failed in a close vote on the House floor Wednesday night. Minnesota Reps. Bachmann, Kline and Paulsen, all Republicans, were joined by DFL Rep. Collin Peterson in voting no. Reps. Ellison, McCollum, Nolan and Walz, all Democrats, voted to restrict the NSA’s phone record gathering program. (MPR News)

The US Senate, including both of Minnesota’s senators, voted in favor of a student loan bill that would tie interest rates on future loans to market rates, an approach that mirrors a Republican bill passed by the House and authored by 2nd District Rep. John Kline. The House will likely vote on the Senate bill next week. (Roll Call)

The only Republicans challenging DFL Sen. Al Franken so far are a businessman with no political experience and a state lawmaker best known for bucking his party. MPR’s Tom Scheck profiled the pair. (MPR News)

Scott Van Binsbergen, a businessman told Roll Call that he is eyeing a bid against 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat. Van Binsbergen said he had already met with the National Republican Congressional Committee and as delegates from the Minnesota Republican Party to weigh a run against Peterson. (Roll Call)

Rep. Keith Ellison isn’t rescinding his endorsement of  former New York City congressman Anthony Weiner’s bid for mayor despite recent revelations that Weiner continued to send inappropriate text messages to women after his 2011 resignation for the same behavior. (Star Tribune)

It’s like a broken record: Yet another poll showing public disapproval of Congress at another all-time high. (Wall Street Journal)