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Congress: The ping-pong advantage

Following up on the New Republic's reporting yesterday, Roll Call and The Hill both confirm that Dems are looking at bypassing the formal conference to merge the two health-care bills. The Hill: "Democrats would enjoy some strategic advantages by declining the formal conference process. They would avoid having to go through a series of votes on appointing and directing conferees, and having to invoke cloture on a conference report. The process would presumably also allow Democrats to work out differences on the health bill internally, and avoid GOP maneuvers to stall passage of the legislation."

Pat Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced yesterday his committee will hold a hearing on the Christmas bombing attempt Jan. 20. It "will focus on anti-terrorism efforts and inter-agency communication," The Hill writes.

"Law enforcement authorities are investigating an anthrax scare at the offices of Rep. Jo Bonner (R) and several other Alabama lawmakers. Bonner's offices were closed on Monday after each received suspicious letters, according to a spokesman for Bonner, while the offices of Rep. Bobby Bright (D) and Sens. Richard Shelby (R) and Jeff Sessions (R) were also targeted, according to the Associated Press."