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Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) said on MSNBC he was surprised that Sen. Joe Lieberman told reporters the White House didn't pressure him to support a public option.

Harkin, a progressive who wanted to see a public option in the health care bill, said he'd "assumed" that President Obama would have been pushing Lieberman (I-CT) at all costs since that's what Senate Democrats ultimately compromised on to secure Lieberman's vote.

"I'm really surprised at that. I would have thought that President Obama, I know he met a number of times with Sen. Lieberman, and Sen. Nelson and others," Harkin said. "I assumed that they were pushing hard for the public option. ... The senator said 'No' under any circumstance and that's why we had to do the compromise."

Lieberman told Huffington Post his negotiations on the public option were with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is using a new pitch in its year-end fundraising: Help our online media guy meet his quota so he can see his mom and his dog for Christmas.

The new e-mail from DCCC New Media staffer Brandon English contains a supposed e-mail from his mom, asking when he's coming home. It is accompanied by a photo purported to be his dog, with his mom saying the dog misses him.

"Help me meet my year-end goal so I can go home and see my puppy!" English exclaims.

Hmm...I can has campaign contribution?

Check out the full e-mail after the jump.

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The new CNN poll finds that President Obama's approval rating is going up, now that he's on the verge of passing a health care bill -- and Democratic approval of the bill is going up, too.

Obama's overall approval is now 54%, to disapproval of 44%, with a ±3% margin of error. In early December, he was at 48%-50%. The poll also finds that the Senate health care bill is still opposed by a margin of 42%-56% -- but that this an improvement from only 36% approval in early December, and the jump has come almost entirely from Democratic voters.

Greg Sargent points out that this is a "counter-intuitive finding," given the anger from the left at the dropping of the public option: "It suggests that overall, rank and file Dems may be grateful for action on health care, and see the bill as an achievement even without its core liberal priorities."

My own take is that the drop in liberal support, and then the subsequent increase, make perfect sense from the standpoint of rational decision-making. At the point when things shifted from a public-option bill to no public option, liberal disapproval naturally shot up. But now, at the point where circumstances have changed from a no-bill scenario to simply passing something to deal with health care, liberal approval has risen again.

In short, Democrats preferred a public option to no public option, and now prefer a bill without a public option to no bill at all.

Republicans aren't ready to bring the health care reform debate to a merciful close just yet, and it seems very much as if they will object if Democrats seek to hold the final vote earlier than Christmas eve, which is when it's currently scheduled to happen.

"I know that the Majority Leader came over to see the Minority Leader this morning," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) emerging from a Republican caucus meeting. "Based on what I heard in this last lunch meeting, I am keeping my [flight] reservation for Christmas day morning, and I am very happy as a citizen of this country...to keep it that way."

Republicans could in theory agree to let Democrats speed up the vote process, but that seems unlikely.

"There has been [objection to speeding things up] so far," said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ)

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Everybody knows the health care debate has become more and more contentious, and dominated by a Republican parliamentary effort to delay the debate. But an under-appreciated aspect of this whole controversy -- exceedingly rare, if not unprecedented -- is the fact that it's even affected defense spending, with Senate Republicans having worked to hold that up, too!

Late on Thursday night, the Senate voted 63-33 to break a Republican filibuster of the defense appropriations bill. Only three Republicans voted against this delay of military spending: Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), Olympia Snowe (ME) and Susan Collins (ME). The filibuster was part of a Republican effort to further delay the health care bill.

So think for a second about what happened here. The Senate GOP sought to hold up military spending -- and not because of an argument with the defense appropriations bill itself or something in it that might have been offensive to them, but in an attempt to block a domestic political debate. It was an especially interesting position for a party that repeatedly accused then-Senator Barack Obama, during the 2008 campaign, of trying to "defund the troops" when he voted against a military funding bill because it didn't include a timeline to withdraw from Iraq.

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The Washington Times announced today that its last Sunday edition will be published Dec. 27, and the paper, which does not have a Saturday edition, will shift to a Monday-Friday publication schedule.

The decision comes a few weeks after the newspaper announced it is cutting at least 40 percent of its staff.

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