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We've already told you about Rep. Pete Sessions's email to Allen Stanford in the wake of charges being filed against the banker for running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. "I love you and believe in you," wrote the GOP congressman to the alleged fraudster.

But Stanford may have had an even tighter bond with another member. After all, you have to be pretty close with someone to ask them to carry a message to Hugo Chavez on your behalf. Especially when that message is that you want the Venezuelan president to open a criminal investigation into an associate with whom you've fallen out. But according to McClatchy, that's what Stanford asked Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) to do. And, say the news outlet's sources, Meeks agreed.

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Democrats are pointing fingers at Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) for blocking the confirmation of Erroll Southers as the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, and the conservative senator is pointing right back.

DeMint's office said it's not an issue of blocking Southers but instead that the senator is seeking debate on the nomination.

DeMint isn't planning on revoking the hold.

A Senate aide told TPMDC that DeMint's objection was to the procedure Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempted to use to approve the nomination - unanimous consent.

DeMint thought there should be a debate and a roll call vote, the aide said.

"Leader Reid can schedule consideration of this nomination any time he wants," the aide said. "But he felt health care was more important. Our view is if the Democrats are upset they've only got themselves to blame because Obama took forever to nominate him."

Southers was nominated in early September and his confirmation hearings were wrapped up earlier this month.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said in a statement TSA needs a permanent administrator.

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Talks To Merge Health Care Bill Bills Begin Behind The Scenes Roll Call reports that the Congressional aides have begun setting up the negotiations between the House and Senate for the health care bill, though at a very early stage. "Everything happening this week is happening behind the scenes," said a Senate aide. "Staff is taking the week to review documents. Informal staff meetings may happen, but nothing is scheduled just yet."

Health Lobby Takes Fight To The States The New York Times says that with the federal government poised to pass a health care reform bill, the states are set to become the new battlegrounds over issues of opting into some programs, opting out, or fighting them entirely: "Last year, for example, the drug industry poured more than $20 million into political contributions in states around the country. In California alone, the industry spent an additional $80 million on advertising to beat back a California ballot measure intended to push down drug prices."

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December 24: President Obama greets supporters at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii. Obama is in Hawaii for a 10-day holiday getaway with his family.

Newscom/Kent Nishimura/Pool/Sipa Press




December 24: The Obamas leave Washington D.C. for their Hawaii vacation.

Newscom/Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT




Upon their arrival at Hickam Air Force base in Honolulu, the President and First Lady Michelle Obama greet supporters.

Newscom/UPI/Kent Nishimura/Pool






Newscom/UPI/Kent Nishimura/Pool




December 25: The First Lady and the President enter Anderson hall where they will greet Marines at the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe, Hawaii.

Newscom/Cory Lum/Pool/Sipa Press






Newscom/Cory Lum/Pool/Sipa Press






Newscom/Cory Lum/Pool/Sipa Press




December 26: US The President is seen in his motorcade, upon his departure from Pyramid Rock Beach Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua.

Newscom/Kent Nishimura/Pool/Sipa Press

With the GOP getting closer and closer to a 2010 campaign pledging to repeal the health care bill, what are some of the political pitfalls -- or potential benefits? We asked University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, and he told us that the GOP could face risks because of the popular individual components of the bill.

"There are very popular parts of the health care bill, i.e., the insurance reforms. If the GOP doesn't exempt those from repeal, they'll be making a major error. Overwhelming majorities of voters want to stop insurance companies from cutting off insurance just when it is needed the most," Sabato said. On the other hand: "There are also unpopular parts of the bill, potentially including new fees and taxes (depending on what is actually adopted). Politically, it could be popular for the Republicans to focus on repealing them or cutting them back. Of course, without the money, there can't be a restructuring of health care."

Sabato also made clear that the real problem is one of political credibility. If Obama is still president, then his veto pen should probably be enough to stop any repeal efforts even if the GOP took both houses of Congress.

The political action committee behind the Tea Party Express (TPE) -- which already has been slammed as inauthentic and corporate-controlled by rival factions in the Tea Party movement -- directed almost two thirds of its spending during a recent reporting period back to the Republican consulting firm that created the PAC in the first place.

Our Country Deserves Better (OCDB) spent around $1.33 million from July through November, according to FEC filings examined by TPMmuckraker. Of that sum, a total of $857,122 went to Sacramento-based GOP political consulting firm Russo, Marsh, and Associates, or people associated with it.

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Rep. Parker Griffith (R-AL) has been getting a mixed reception from his state's GOP officials, since he switched from the Democratic Party last week. Some of his new Alabama co-partisans are glad to have him in the party, while some are against it -- and others even want to go so far as to ban him from the Republican primary.

State GOP chairman Mike Hubbard is welcoming Griffith despite the party's past attacks on him, and Griffith's own jousting with the state GOP when he was a state legislator. "It's almost like coming to your church and asking forgiveness for past sins," Hubbard told the Montgomery Advertiser. "You don't turn them away. We'll forgive him for his sins."

On the other hand, state Treasurer Kay Ivey, a candidate for governor, hasn't been so hospitable: "Political self-preservation isn't a virtue. In fact, political expediency is an insult to every grassroots activist who commits untold hours in devotion to getting candidates elected."

In addition there is Hugh McInnish, a Fifth Congressional District Republican committee member, who is proposing a drastic push-back against Griffith: Banning him from receiving the GOP nomination altogether. However, McInnish admitted to me that this idea was not likely to succeed at this juncture.

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