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Congress: Let's play some ping-pong

The New Republic's Jon Cohn: "According to a pair of senior Capitol Hill staffers, one from each chamber, House and Senate Democrats are 'almost certain' to negotiate informally rather than convene a formal conference committee. Doing so would allow Democrats to avoid a series of procedural steps--not least among them, a series of special motions in the Senate, each requiring a vote with full debate--that Republicans could use to stall deliberations, just as they did in November and December… 'I think the Republicans have made our decision for us,' the Senate staffer says. 'It's time for a little ping-pong.'
 
"'Ping pong' is a reference to one way the House and Senate could proceed. With ping-ponging, the chambers send legislation back and forth to one another until they finally have an agreed-upon version of the bill. But even ping-ponging can take different forms and some people use the term generically to refer to any informal negotiations. Whatever form the final discussions take place, a decision to bypass conference would undoubtedly expedite the debate, clearing the way for final passage (if not signing) by the end of January." 

Roll Call: "The House isn't due back in session until Jan. 12, but key Democrats will be in town this week hashing out the remaining differences between the House and Senate health care bills."

"Republicans scoff at the 'Jobs for Main Street Act' title that House Democrats put on their $174 billion package last month," the AP says. "They refer to it as 'son of the stimulus,' the $787 billion economic recovery plan of nearly a year ago that they say was ineffective at producing jobs."

The New York Times profiles the lone white Democrat in Alabama's congressional delegation, Bobby Bright, who has voted with Republicans on major pieces of legislation. 

"Iranian legislators on Sunday decided to not allow a visit from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), according to Iranian media," The Hill reports. 
 
Like his fellow South Carolinian Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, Rep. Bob Inglis has taken many "departures from conservative orthodoxy," Politico writes, including Inglis on its "25 politicians to watch" list. "If he loses [in South Carolina's June primary], chances are high that it will rekindle -- or advance -- the narrative about a GOP civil war. And that's not what Republicans want to be talking about five months out from the midterm election."