WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Democrats scrambled to meet self-imposed deadlines, Senate Republicans froze the health care debate for at least a day Wednesday by insisting that a 767-page mega-amendment be read out loud in its entirety.
The move was poised take some 12 hours or more and grind Senate business to a halt for the day. It also threatened Democrats' ability to pass a health care bill before Christmas.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, set things in motion around lunchtime Wednesday. As the Senate moved to a sweeping single-payer amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, Coburn objected to the common Senate procedure that waives the actual out-loud reading of the proposal.
"I would ask that the amendment be considered as read," Sanders said on the floor.
Washington (CNN) - With a holiday break looming in its sights, the House of Representatives Wednesday rushed to wrap up year end business, and postponed several major battles until next year.
With an overwhelming vote, 395-34, The House passed the spending bill for the Department of Defense. The $636 billion measure includes money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but does not include the additional costs expected for the 30,000 U.S. troops the Obama administration has announced it will send to Afghanistan next year. A separate request for those troops is expected to come up for a vote next spring.
Democrats also tacked on to the defense bill short-term extensions of several programs set to expire at the end of 2009, including a two-month extension of unemployment assistance and health care coverage for those who have lost their jobs. House Democrats wanted to include a six-month continuation of these items, but were forced to scale back because Senate Democratic leaders made it clear they would not be able pass a longer extension this year.
Washington (CNN) - Sen. Ben Nelson tells CNN he has received a compromise proposal on abortion restrictions that look "better than what's in the bill," but that he has to review it, and send it back to anti-abortion interest groups in his home state of Nebraska.
The compromise proposal was devised by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn, another anti-abortion Democrat who has been trying to help Democratic leaders and Nelson negotiate a compromise to win his support for health care.
A Democratic leadership aide would say only that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nelson and others have been "going back and forth" with ideas on how to find common ground on this vexing issue for several days.
Nelson - whose vote is likely crucial to pass the Democratic health care reform bill - has said he believes the abortion restrictions in the Senate bill are too weak, and has threatened to vote against the plan if it isn't changed. His amendment to adopt the strict prohibitions passed by the House was defeated.
(CNN) - Sarah Palin is hitting back at California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's dig at the former Alaska governor over the issue of climate change.
"Why is Governor Schwarzenegger pushing for the same sorts of policies in Copenhagen that have helped drive his state into record deficits and unemployment?" Palin wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday night. "Perhaps he will recall that I live in our nation's only Arctic state and that I was among the first governors to create a sub-cabinet to deal specifically with climate change."
Palin's comments came hours after the California Republican questioned Palin's stance on climate change in an interview with the Financial Times at the Copenhagen climate change summit
"You have to ask: what was she trying to accomplish?" said Schwarzenegger, who has backed strict new emissions controls to combat climate change. "Is she really interested in this subject or is she interested in her career and in winning the (Republican presidential) nomination? You have to take all these things with a grain of salt."
The former Republican vice presidential nominee has questioned whether human activity contributes to climate change, and wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post last week blasting the cap and trade policy promoted by the Obama administration to limit emissions. She has also called on President Obama to boycott the Copenhagen conference.
On her Facebook page Tuesday night, Palin said Schwarzenegger was acting "greener than thou."
"While I and all Alaskans witness the impacts of changes in weather patterns firsthand, I have repeatedly said that we can't primarily blame man's activities for those changes," she wrote. "And while I did look for practical responses to those changes, what I didn't do was hamstring Alaska's job creators with burdensome regulations so that I could act 'greener than thou' when talking to reporters."
Palin also mixed it up last week with former vice President Al Gore, who dubbed her a climate change "denier."
Also on her Facebook page, Palin criticized the former vice president for promoting "doomsday scenarios": "Climate change is like gravity – a naturally occurring phenomenon that existed long before, and will exist long after, any governmental attempts to affect it."
Washington (CNN) - Barring any major changes stemming from the awaited Congressional Budget Office score, longtime Democratic holdout Sen. Mary Landrieu told reporters Wednesday she had decided to vote for the health care reform bill
(CNN) - South Carolina lawmakers voted down a resolution Wednesday to impeach Mark Sanford, voting instead to formally rebuke the embattled governor for taking a secret trip to Argentina to see his mistress, and for the misuse of state airplanes.
The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a resolution to rebuke Sanford, saying the governor actions brought "ridicule, disgrace and shame" to South Carolina.
The panel agreed with a move last week by a special House subcommittee that called Sanford's behavior "reprehensible," "arrogant" and "indefensible" - but concluded that the Republican governor's actions did not rise to the constitutional level of impeachment.
The rebuke passed Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee moves to the full House and Senate, where no action is expected until next year.
"I'd like to thank the Committee for its work and deliberative approach today and throughout the process," Sanford said in a statement following the vote," adding he obviously agrees "with the Committee's reasonable decision to reject impeachment."
(CNN) - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty heads to the presidential proving ground of New Hampshire Wednesday. The potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate is scheduled to be the featured speaker at a fundraiser in Concord for New Hampshire State Senate Republicans.
Pawlenty is expected to speak about the need to rein in Washington spending, a source close to the two-term governor tells CNN. The governor will plug his record of balancing state budgets without raising taxes, and his health care track record in Minnesota. Pawlenty will also continue his recent attacks on the Senate Democratic health care bill.
Pawlenty, who's not well know in New Hampshire, will also use his appearance to introduce them to his personal story of growing up in a blue-collar town, and talk about the importance of reaching out beyond the core GOP base to expand the party.
Pawlenty announced this past summer he would not seek a third term as governor next year, fueling speculation he is setting his sights on a presidential bid instead. Since then, he's become a frequent speaker at major Republican and conservative conferences across the country. He also took on a high profile role as vice chairman of the Republican Governor's Association.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Several influential organizations urged passage of health care legislation Wednesday in the face of growing liberal discontent with what many Democrats believe is now a watered down Senate bill.
Representatives of the AARP, Consumers Union and the Service Employees International Union, among others, pushed for quick Senate passage of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's sweeping $848 billion plan.
"Our organizations are here to say move the process forward," said Ron Pollack, head of the progressive group Families USA.
Reid's measure "has many important provisions that improve the availability and the quality of health care for Americans," said Consumers
Union's DeAnn Friedholm, which publishes the magazine Consumer Reports.
"We urge the Senate to move forward to keep working towards the many vital improvements not just in access, not just in cost, but also in quality and safety."
Washington (CNN) – The Republican National Committee is releasing a new Web video Wednesday that urges senators to vote against the Democratic health care bill.
The 30-second "Listen To Me" video is the latest in the RNC's ongoing public relations effort to try and derail health care reform as Democrats work to get a bill through the Senate before Christmas.
As part of the GOP's strategy, RNC political and press staff have been sent to six states: Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Virginia to coordinate individual campaigns in an effort to convince senators from these states to oppose the bill. The campaign is directed at Democrats who represent five of these states as well as Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, who aligns himself with the Democratic Party.
In addition, the RNC is spending $100,000 on ads placed on national radio shows calling for the defeat of the bill.