TPM News

The Obama administration identified cuts to contracting within the federal government that puts the United States on track to save $19 billion this year and $40 billion by the end of the 2011 fiscal year.

Among the cuts is the consolidation of software purchases at the Department of Homeland Security to save more than $87 million.

"These changes will save the American people billions of dollars," President Obama said at an event today announcing the award winner from a government contest to identify savings.

He also said that next year he'd host an event at the White House seeking ideas from private sector on how to cut government spending.

Earlier today, staffers from the Office of Management and Budget outlined some of the cuts and announced the government will create an online "dashboard" so taxpayers can gauge whether agencies are meeting their goals.

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During the Sunday Senate debate on health care, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) called on the American people to pray that a Democratic Senator would be unable to vote on the health care bill, in order to force Democrats to work with Republicans on the issue.

"What the American people oughtta pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight," Coburn said. "That's what they oughtta pray, so that we can actually get the middle -- not me, not mine, I understand I'm way over here -- but we oughtta get the middle of America and the middle of the Senate a bill that can run through this country and actually do what we say we all want to do."

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Republicans acknowledge that it's not going to be possible to block the health care bill from clearing the Senate chamber.

So why the delay?

One reason the votes have been held at wacky hours is that GOP leaders have forced the full 30 hours required between cloture votes and objecting if Democrats try to shorten that time window. They also are taking advantage of Senate rules that are often waived to make sure that leadership has to file three cloture votes.

There's no going back since the trio of votes were set in motion, so it's highly unlikely the health care bill would be able to clear final passage before the scheduled 7 p.m. Christmas Eve vote, even though the total is a foregone conclusion.

Still, Republicans are complaining about "dead of night" votes.

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A Washington, D.C., police detective has been put on desk duty after pulling out his gun during a snowball fight Saturday.

The off-duty detective, whose name has not been released, was driving past a snowball fight in the city when his Hummer was hit by snowballs. He allegedly stopped the car, got out, and took out his gun. He also pulled out a walkie-talkie and called for backup.

Most of the incident was caught on video and quickly posted to YouTube.

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No sooner had the deal been sealed for a health care reform vote in the Senate than did the tea partiers began to use it to target Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In a fundraising email sent hours before the vote that cleared the way for a reform bill's passage in the Senate, organizers of the Tea Party Express series of cross-country lecture tours called on tea partiers everywhere to pay for an ad targeting Reid in Nevada.

"It is we the people who have been slaves to your failures and arrogance," the ad reads. "Our country deserves better."

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Democratic leaders in D.C. weren't the only legislators frustrated by Republican party efforts to block health care reform last week. After watching his party promise to stonewall any Democratic reform efforts, Maine state Rep. Jim Campbell decided it was time to drop the (R) from his title.

From Campbell's statement announcing his decision to leave the GOP and become an Independent (h/t Ben Smith):

I have been very frustrated with the Republican Party in Maine, and nationally, for their failure to address the health care crisis in a meaningful way. Nobody has all the answers, but the Republican Party has none when it comes to health care reform.

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