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It's not just stalling for fun and games - Republicans blocking health care from moving forward using Senate procedure think if they can force Democrats to go home for the holidays without a vote, they might just kill the bill.

The reasoning is that August was bad for Democrats when they went back to their districts and faced angry voters. Now, as polls tip against them and there's party infighting, it might be even worse.

TPMDC checked in with Republican sources and some Democrats who say lawmakers could face the cold shoulder at best or angry constituents reminiscent of the summer town halls at worst if they leave town without voting on the bill.

And the clock is ticking. Thanks to Senate rules, if they want to vote on the final bill by Christmas eve, leadership has just a few days to wrap it up.

Republican aides were reluctant to reveal their plans, but today was a bit of a preview as they slowed down the chamber's actions by more than three hours.

Using parliamentary procedure to slow things down is exactly what the GOP is aiming for - a dual win of headline-grabbing theater and delay that throws a wrench into leadership's timeline.

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An amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill introduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), which would allow rape victims employed by defense contractors to have their day in court, has made it through conference committee and into the final version of the bill.

The bill was approved today by the House in a vote of 395 to 34. It faces approval next by the Senate.

"The Jamie Leigh Jones amendment is on its way to becoming law thanks to their work, the work of Chairman Inouye, and the work of the White House. I'm pleased that together, we were able to find a solution that allows victims of assault and discrimination their rightful day in court," Franken said in a statement.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took direct aim at Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) today, for delaying debate on health care legislation by requiring the text of Sanders' 767-page single payer amendment to be read aloud on the Senate floor.

"A single payer program would be the only way to bring universal, comprehensive, cost-effective health care to all Americans," Sanders told reporters at a press conference today. "I really do appreciate [Senator Coburn's] desire to make the American people know this through 10 or 12 or 14 hours of the reading, but I think he may have overdone it a little bit. But you know this is nothing more than an ongoing, stalling tactic on the part of the Republicans."

Sanders addressed Coburn directly about this on the Senate floor earlier today. He says he told the Oklahoma Republican, "Why do you want to waste hour after hour...it's just incredible to me that with all of the problems facing this country today, that Senator Coburn and the Republican leadership would want to absolutely waste time, and that is why I think the American people get so frustrated."

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Two hundred and thirty-six years after a group of angry Bostonians dressed up as Native Americans so they wouldn't get caught taking on the establishment, the Republican Party donned the mantle of the Tea Party movement, in hopes that they won't get caught next year looking like Dede Scozzafava.

"Never has there been a moment like this in our history," RNC chair Michael Steele told Hill staffers and Republican party activists munching pizza and sipping iced tea (without irony) at the RNC headquarters today. "Except one time before," he added before telling the tale of the Boston Tea Party.

Steele raised his own cup of tea before promising to "stand in solidarity" with the tea partiers on health care reform. "I salute you," he said.

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Did the Obama Administration just deliver a $38 billion stealth bailout to Citigroup?

According to several outside experts the answer is yes, but the Treasury is maintaining an IRS ruling that granted Citi a $38 billion tax break was routine and proper. The Washington Post first reported the news of the IRS ruling in a front-page story today.

The IRS decision came as part of a deal for Citi to pay back $20 billion, which was announced earlier this week amid mutual back-patting. One benefit for Citi is being freed from salary restrictions.

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Allen West, a Republican candidate for the swing seat of the 22nd Congressional District in Florida, is making a bold declaration against the party becoming more open to moderation.

"There are three words I hate to hear used. I hate big-tent. I hate inclusiveness. And I hate outreach," West told the Weekly Standard, in a new profile piece. "I think you stand on the principles that make you great, which transcend everybody in America, and people will come to it."

West previously ran for the seat in 2008, losing to incumbent Democrat Ron Klein by 55%-45%, in a district that Barack Obama carried by 52%-48%.

West is a retired Army colonel, who was forced into his retirement after a 2003 incident in which he, as the Standard puts it, "conducted a harsh interrogation" on an Iraqi police officer, in which West fired his gun near the man's head.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has stepped up his brazen campaign to target the local judiciary.

Deputies of the Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff went to the homes of assistants to several Superior Court judges, to try to interview them about what Sheriff Joe has asserted -- with little evidence -- is corruption on the part of their bosses, reports the Phoenix New Times.

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Michael Moore is threatening the state of Connecticut with a boycott if they don't recall Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) -- which would put Connecticut's economy in a very tight spot, considering they couldn't recall him even if they wanted to.

Moore posted this on Twitter: "People of Connecticut: What have u done 2 this country? We hold u responsible. Start recall of Lieberman 2day or we'll boycott your state."

This comes a day after Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said that Lieberman "ought to be recalled." In fact, there is no provision in the Constitution for recalling a member of Congress.

Memo to Michael Moore and any other frustrated lefties out there: There is no such thing as a Congressional recall. So until 2012, we're all stuck with Joe.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended Senate Republicans' tactic of reading a 700-plus-page amendment today to stall debate on the health care bill.

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), calls for a single-payer system and will likely be voted down.

"You've had members admit they haven't read the underlying bill, so I think it's kind of a good idea to read the amendment to the bill you haven't read," Steele told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell.

We should note that as RNC chair, Steele doesn't have any power when it comes to what Congressional Republicans on the House or Senate floor. But his answer is a good example of Republican justification for delaying health care.

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With Democrats closing in on passing a Senate health care bill, Republicans are upping the obstruction--and they're playing chicken with U.S. troops to do so.

Way back on December 2nd, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) filed a single-payer amendment to the Senate health care bill, which was supposed to come up for a vote this afternoon. But at the last moment, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), at the behest Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), demanded that the entire 700-plus page amendment be read aloud on the floor. That's happening now.

Under normal circumstances, this would be a 10 or 12 hour dilatory tactic. But not today. Today, Democrats were planning to file for cloture on the Defense Appropriations bill, in order to get it passed by Friday before midnight when department funding runs out. If the entire amendment is read aloud, it's likely that the Senate won't be able to pass the defense bill until Saturday at the earliest, and would have to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep money flowing.

"The only thing that Sen. Coburn's stunt achieves is to stop us from moving to the DoD appropriations bill that funds our troops - not exactly the kind of Christmas gift that our troops were expecting from Dr. No," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

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