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Here's how Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) characterizes the behind-the-scenes discussions that could very well result in a change in the abortion language in the Senate health care bill.

"There are a lot of people talking. So there might be something that comes up, and there might not. I've been very vocal about the Stupak-type language, and I haven't seen anything yet that would adequately replace the Stupak language at this point in time. That doesn't mean that people aren't going to continue to work on it, and perhaps they'll find it."

Not a definitive statement, but seems like leadership is looking into it.

Vice President Biden attended a fund-raiser in Hartford today for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who's facing a tough re-election campaign next year -- and he didn't sound too optimistic about his friend's chances.

"Chris is getting the living hell beat out of him, the living bejesus beat out of him,'' Biden said, according to the pool report. "Why? Because he's being a leader. This is going to be a hell of a race and it's an uphill race, but Chris Dodd will prevail.''

Dodd was scheduled to attend the $500-a-ticket fund-raiser, but stayed in Washington instead for votes.

Dodd has taken a big hit for his role as chairman of the banking committee through the time of bailouts and TARP. He had also been accused receiving sweetheart mortgages from Countrywide, although the Ethics Committee found he did nothing wrong.

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As I noted earlier, the Democrats' self-imposed Christmas deadline to pass health care reform is very much in doubt. But if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid does push the issue, he may lose one key health care swing vote, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

"The more they try to, sort of, drive this process in an unrealistic timeframe, the more reluctant I become about whether or not this can be doable in this timeframe that we're talking about," Snowe told reporters today.

Throughout the health care debate, Snowe has often pushed the principals to slow things down. So what might make her less reluctant?

"There's always January," Snowe said. "Frankly, I understand the value of deadlines, but this is getting, I think, unrealistic in terms of where we stand today. I mean you have to start filing cloture votes just to get done by Christmas. That's going to have to happen pretty soon. Like maybe Wednesday."

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), a candidate for Governor of Hawaii in 2010, is resigning from Congress.

Abercrombie said he is resigning in order to "allow someone to be elected who will carry on the work of this office." An effective date for his resignation has not yet been announced.

Democrats should probably hold on to this district pretty easily, in heavily Democratic Hawaii. The district voted 55%-39% for Al Gore in 2000, 52%-47% for John Kerry in 2004 -- and then for Barack Obama by a whopping 70%-28% in 2008.

Two Democrats and one Republican were already running for the open seat, and could potentially be running in the special election: Former Rep. Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa on the Democratic side, and Republican Honolulu city councilman Charles Djou.

Late Update: Those three candidates are officially in. Also, we got this comment from Stephanie Lundberg, press secretary for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), on the timing of Abercrombie's resignation: "It is our understanding that Rep. Abercrombie will be present to take the vote on final health reform legislation."

The Republicans are planning to fight furiously to try and recapture control of the House of Representatives in 2010, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who helped orchestrate the Republican revolution 15 years ago, thinks it's possible for a repeat.

"I think you could easily have a bigger backlash in 2010 than we had in 1994," Gingrich (R-GA) told Newsmax TV recently.

Looking at generic polls of party preference, Republicans like what they see, and most Democrats acknowledge they will lose seats next fall.

But a Republican House takeover? Pretty unlikely it seems, as TPMDC explored the question by talking to political consultants and campaign hands to see what conditions existed in 1994 and whether they exist now.

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On his radio show today, Rush Limbaugh said that none other than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told him that the Republicans are offering amendments to the health care bill, not to improve the bill, but as a parliamentary maneuver to "flush out" Democratic centrists Ben Nelson and Jim Webb, and to try to peel them away and thus stop the bill:

"Plus there are the Republicans using procedures, parliamentary procedures, and offering all these amendments. Now the purpose -- I talked to Sen. McConnell about the purpose of the amendments. He said we're trying to flush out with these amendments, just who it is that really we have to focus on here. And the two names that he mentioned were Ben Nelson and Jim Webb in Virginia. Because there's something that Webb is not going along with the Democrats on, I forget specifically what it is. My point in mentioning all this is, that the Republicans in the Senate are using parliamentary procedures, they are offering all these amendments, not to make the bill better, but to flush out and to find out who it is that they really need to work with to stop this. That is their objective, to stop it.


When contacted by TPM, McConnell's office could not immediately comment.


Thursday, December 10, 2009: President Obama delivers his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. He expressed his humility, acknowledging the "giants of history" who have received award. And he was also frank about the realities of the current military engagements of the U.S.:



"But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the commander-in-chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars."

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




The newest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize eyes his award at the Norwegian Nobel Institute.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




First Lady Michelle Obama looks at pictures of past Nobel winners.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




President Obama sits down for a bilateral meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




At the Slottet Royal Palace, President Obama signs the guest book as the First Lady looks on.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza






Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




President Obama receives the Nobel Prize and diploma during the ceremony at Oslo City Hall.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza






Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




The audience looks on.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza






Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama leave Oslo City Hall following the Nobel ceremony.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA).

• CBS, Face The Nation: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

• CNN, State Of The Union: National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers.

• Fox News Sunday: Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA).

• NBC, Meet The Press: Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), CNBC host Jim Cramer.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama issued a statement about Hanukkah, which begins today.

Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all who are celebrating Hanukkah around the world. The Hanukkah story of the Maccabees and the miracles they witnessed reminds us that faith and perseverance are powerful forces that can sustain us in difficult times and help us overcome even the greatest odds.

Hanukkah is not only a time to celebrate the faith and customs of the Jewish people, but for people of all faiths to celebrate the common aspirations we share. As families, friends and neighbors gather together to kindle the lights, may Hanukkah's lessons inspire us all to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy, to find light in times of darkness, and to work together for a brighter, more hopeful tomorrow.

The also posted a Hebrew translation at WhiteHouse.gov.

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