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Congress: Supporting the troops?

The Washington Post: "Senate Republicans failed early Friday in their bid to filibuster a massive Pentagon bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an unusual move designed to delay President Obama's health-care legislation. On a 63 to 33 vote, Democrats cleared a key hurdle that should allow them to approve the must-pass military spending bill Saturday and return to the health-care debate. After years of criticizing Democrats for not supporting the troops, just three Republicans supported the military funding." 

Roll Call's headline on the Defense measure's middle-of-the-night passage: "Reid's Health Care Bill Strategy Clears First Hurdle."

The defense bill "now heads for a 7:30 a.m. Saturday vote in the Senate after Friday's 1:30 a.m. cloture vote, according to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)," The Hill writes. Republican Whip Jon Kyl: "Republicans didn't delay this bill until a week before Christmas." Reid: "We're here at 1 o'clock in the morning because of the Republicans."

The New York Times notes how the fate of the Senate bill seems to be in Sen. Ben Nelson's hands. "Other Democrats, liberals as well as centrists, have not yet committed to vote for the bill. And the abortion provisions are just one of numerous concerns that Mr. Nelson has expressed about it. But the biggest obstacle seems to be his demand for tighter restrictions, which are being resisted fiercely by a bloc of senators who support abortion rights."

More: "Pete Rouse, a senior White House adviser, has been assigned specifically to address Mr. Nelson's concerns. Senator Bob Casey, a freshman Democrat from Pennsylvania and a prominent opponent of abortion rights, was tapped to devise some sort of compromise language on coverage for abortions to bring Mr. Nelson on board. But Mr. Casey's initial efforts have come up short, though he said he would keep trying. 'I want to be a fountain of ideas on this topic,' he said. To help divine Mr. Nelson's thinking, a wide array of Democrats have reached out to him in recent days, including former Senators Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska. In the calls, Mr. Nelson has not disclosed how he is leaning, but his friends say they can sense the pressure he is facing."

Right now, Nelson's a "no." "If it's not at the point where I think it needs to be with the improvements that I'm pushing -- and they've made a lot of them -- then I will not vote for cloture on the motion to end debate," Nelson said in an interview on KLIN radio in Nebraska. There's a lot of improvement on the legislation but the basic question on funding for abortion hasn't been answered yet." 

Former President Bill "Clinton -- who saw his own attempt at a health-care overhaul crash on the shoals of Congress in 1994 -- wrote an open letter saying it would be a 'colossal blunder' to let the nearly $1 trillion plan die," the New York Post notes. "'Does the bill read exactly how I would write it? No. Does it contain everything everyone wants? No,' he wrote. 'But America can't afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Take it from someone who knows: These chances don't come around every day. Allowing this effort to fall short now would be a colossal blunder.'"

In must-see video, Al Franken shut down Joe Lieberman on the Senate floor yesterday. Lieberman asked for more time, Franken, presiding over the Senate, denied it. "Franken's spokeswoman, Jess McIntosh, said that the Minnesota senator wouldn't allow Lieberman to continue because time limits were being enforced by Senate leaders rushing to finish a defense spending bill and get to the health bill." (Here's NBC's Kelly O'Donnell's piece from Nightly News last night.) 

Speaking of Lieberman, MoveOn says it's raised $1 million off Lieberman, using this sock-puppet video mocking him.

By a 16-7 vote yesterday, the Senate Banking Committee voted to approve Ben Bernanke's confirmation for a second term as Fed chairman. It now moves to the full Senate. But yesterday's vote "represented a retreat from Mr. Bernanke's near-unanimous approval by the committee four years ago. Neither party's members voted as a bloc, and even some of Mr. Bernanke's supporters said they harbored reservations and might reconsider when the vote went to the Senate." 

How productive were House members this year? "Healthcare may have dominated debate in Congress this year, but House lawmakers still found time to record 991 total roll call votes over the past 12 months," The Hill writes. "That's the chamber's second-highest vote total since 1991, according to the chamber's historians. The first session of the 110th Congress currently holds first place, recording more than 1,100 votes in a single year. Interestingly enough, July was the most productive month for the 111th House. Over the course of 31 days, its members recorded 209 roll call votes."