(CNN) - Sean Penn could have been walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. Instead, he was under the Dome in Washington on Wednesday to testify on Haiti.
Penn's newest film, spy thriller "Fair Game," will debut Thursday at Cannes, but the day before, the Oscar-winning actor was seated before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as witness to an emergency.
"I come here today in the hope that we will address with bold clarity the razor's edge upon which Haiti lies," he said.
He called on lawmakers to demand transparency as the island nation moves forward in recovering from the massive earthquake that struck January 12.
"In an emergency, donors offer money and expect it to be spent helping people," Penn said. "I hope we are here today to encourage just that."
Washington (CNN) - First lady Michelle Obama faced a tough policy question Wednesday from an unlikely source - a second-grader.
During a visit to a Washington-area school with Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala, a student concerned about her mother's legal status asked Michelle Obama about her husband's immigration policies.
"My mom said, I think that she says that, Barack Obama is going to take away everybody that doesn't have papers," the young girl told the first lady.
The unscripted moment was sandwiched between examples of Michelle Obama's signature policy initiatives - a lesson on healthy eating and an exercise session - and forced the first lady to walk the fine line of immigration reform policy language.
"Yeah, well, that's something that we have to work on, right? To make sure that people can be here with the right kind of papers, right? That's exactly right," she said.
The girl replied, "But, my mom doesn't have any."
Washington (CNN) - U.S. diplomacy toward Mexico was fueled Wednesday by sea trout, lemon meringue pie and hibiscus iced tea.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden hosted the lunch for Mexican President Calderon at the State Department.
The top floor Benjamin Franklin reception room was filled with tables covered with red tablecloths, gold-rimmed glasses and gold and white china. Some tables held large green ceramic pineapples with pots of pink and white flowers. Waiters had carefully placed hibiscus blossoms in each glass of ice tea.
In opening remarks, Clinton said "the United States is proud to be Mexico's friend, partner and neighbor."
(CNN) - With his loss in the Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary, Sen. Arlen Specter became the latest high-profile candidate that a boost from President Obama couldn't save.
Specter, the Republican-turned Democrat, lost Tuesday to U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak.
Sestak called his victory "a win for the people, over the establishment, over the status quo, even over Washington, D.C."
Observers called it a bruise for the White House.
(CNN) – Score another big endorsement for Sharron Angle in her bid for Nevada's Republican Senate nomination.
Wednesday the fiscally conservative Club for Growth formally backed Angle, a former GOP member of the Nevada Assembly who is also an anti-tax champion. The winner of next month's Republican primary will take on presumptive Democratic nominee, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"Sharron Angle is everything a pro-growth, limited-government, economic conservative can be, and everything Washington and the country need right now. She was the undisputed fiscal conservative leader in the Nevada State Assembly, and she has the courage and skill to step into the same role in the U.S. Senate," says Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in an e-mail release.
He added, "Sharron is Harry Reid's worst nightmare, and Nevada's best hope."
(CNN) - No doubt about it, all those angry voters out there - on the right, on the left and in the center - can wake up today with a sense of accomplishment. The insiders were, by and large, ousted.
The outsiders are a step closer to victory. In Pennsylvania and Kentucky, the establishment was routed; in Arkansas, the moderate Democratic incumbent could not win outright and faces a tough runoff.
The political world has been mowed down by a Mack truck.
Washington (CNN) - Jim DeMint has a message to the Washington political establishment: An "American awakening" is taking place across the country, as seen in the Tea Party-backed Rand Paul's win in Kentucky's Republican Senate primary.
"It shows that Americans want strong leaders who will stand up to the massive spending, bailouts, and debt in Washington that are bankrupting our country," DeMint said in a statement.
Among conservatives and Tea Party groups, DeMint - a first-term Republican senator from South Carolina - has become a political heavyweight, lending conservative credentials and financial resources to little-known, outside-the-beltway candidates.
His efforts, an expert said, is geared towards building support for himself with the conservative base and positioning himself as a leading voice in the anti-Washington movement.
"I would characterize his efforts to position himself as an attempt to be seen as the thinking person's Sarah Palin," said Jeremy Mayer, a political scientist and professor of public policy at George Mason University. "He has a lot of the same positions as Sarah Palin, he speaks to a lot of the same constituencies but he has a much longer record of public service" and isn't as polarizing.
Washington (CNNMoney.com) - The Senate is set Wednesday to take a crucial test vote on Wall Street reform amid signs that proponents may have secured enough votes for passage.
Democrats will begin voting at 2 p.m. ET to end debate on the legislation, which aims to stop bailouts, shine a light on complex financial products and strengthen consumer protection.
Proponents need 60 votes to pass the test. Passage would be an important barometer since only 51 votes would be needed for Senate approval of the final bill.
"There comes a time when we have to put this thing to rest," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Wednesday morning. "We've been on this bill for a month."
Reid has said senators, including some Republicans, have told him they favor ending debate.
One key lawmaker, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said that she planned to join Democrats voting to end debate, calling the overall month-long debate "fair and open," in a statement.
Washington (CNN) – So much for political kingmakers and the machine, at least in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. National and statewide political officials and operatives watched their chosen candidates fall Tuesday in two separate primaries with two different narratives weaved together by the common thread of anti-establishment sentiment.
Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania saw his 30-year career in the Senate come to an abrupt end at the hands of Rep. Joe Sestak despite being endorsed by President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and just about every big-name Democrat.
In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell failed in his attempt to crown Secretary of State Trey Grayson the GOP Senate nominee in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Jim Bunning. Grayson lost in a landslide to Rand Paul, whose campaign was fueled by Tea Party activists.
Meanwhile in Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln failed to beat back a challenge from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and will face Lt. Gov. Bill Halter again in a primary runoff. Round two takes place June 8.
CNN Radio: Voters send a message in Tuesday night's primaries: Insiders are out. CNN's John Lisk and CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser examine a common thread in the races.
These three races all have unique storylines with their own set of actors, subplots and circumstances. Yet each political contest shares the overarching themes of anti-Washington and anti-establishment exacerbated by a sluggish economy and high unemployment rate.
New York (CNNMoney.com) - Congress is finally close to checking Wall Street reform off its to-do list. Then it will turn to a bevy of spending and tax measures. Individually, the measures may not inspire sticker shock, but together they add up.
In coming weeks, Congress will consider measures that combined could increase the deficit by close to $500 billion over 10 years. And that doesn't include the big kahuna on this year's agenda: extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which could cost anywhere from several hundred billion dollars to more than $2 trillion.
While it is expected that many measures will be paid for with revenue-generating provisions, the total cost of all that's on the table would not be fully offset. That's in large part because several measures are exempt from the new "pay-as-you-go" law.