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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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A self-styled Nevada codebreaker convinced the CIA he could decode secret terrorist targeting information sent through Al Jazeera broadcasts, prompting the Bush White House to raise the terror alert level to Orange (high) in December 2003, with Tom Ridge warning of "near-term attacks that could either rival or exceed what we experience on September 11," according to a new report in Playboy.

The report deals another blow to the credibility of the Department of Homeland Security's color-coded terror alert system, and comes after Ridge's claim that the system was used as a political tool when he was DHS secretary.

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A new Rasmussen poll finds that Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) could be seriously vulnerable in 2010 -- but only if the GOP manages to get just the right candidate to oppose him, third-term Republican Gov. John Hoeven.

When Dorgan is tested against Duane Sand, a Navy veteran who has previously run unsuccessfully for the Senate and the House, Dorgan leads by 52%-37%. But if Hoeven were the GOP candidate, Dorgan would trail by a 58%-36% margin.

Hoeven has previously declined a Senate run. The GOP tried to recruit him to run against Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad in the 2006 cycle, but he didn't make the race. Earlier this year, he said he would decide on a Senate run by September -- which has obviously passed already. But if he were to get in, he would start as the frontrunner.

From the pollster's analysis: "Along with Hoeven's popularity in the state, Dorgan has to contend with President Obama's unpopularity. John McCain carried North Dakota over Obama 53% to 45%, and now just 41% approve of how the president is doing his job. Fifty-eight percent (58%) disapprove."

Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern, who criticized the Senate health care bill last week, issued a statement last night calling the vote a step closer to "reforming" the system.

"While the process to get to sixty and the willingness of individual Senators to use the Senate's rules to distort democracy for their own interest was disappointing - make no mistake about it: for working Americans this vote signals progress," Stern said.

He also blasted Republicans for sitting on the sidelines "jeering, rooting for America to fail."

Stern said there will be a chance to improve the bill after it passes the Senate and lawmakers look to a conference committee to merge that legislation with the House bill. He outlined on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday what he'd like to see changed during the conference process.

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