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While You Were Sleeping

An astounding amount of action happened in the dead of night last night. Let’s get you up to speed:

• Senate Republicans tried to filibuster a large defense bill, but they were unsuccessful. At 1 in the morning in DC, the Senate invoked cloture on the must-pass bill by a count of 63-33. They didn’t need Russ Feingold’s vote, but he voted with the majority anyway to allow the process to move forward if there were no GOP votes (ultimately, Collins, Snowe and Hutchison voted with all 60 Democrats), despite opposing the war in Afghanistan, which gets funded under this measure.

What else is in that $626 billion spending bill, besides spending for the Pentagon, Iraq and Afghanistan? They patched a previously passed unemployment insurance extension to make sure people who saw their benefits run out at the end of the year would still get covered under it. There’s a temporary “doc fix” in the bill so that Medicare payments won’t go down 21%. Highway and transit funding are included in the bill, as well as… reauthorization of key parts of the Patriot Act!

Amazing what you can do in the middle of the night when nobody’s looking.

Oddly enough, this keeps the health care time line intact – Harry Reid spokesman Jim Manley explains the schedule:

If Republicans do not agree to yield back time, we will have a cloture vote on the message from the House on the defense conference report at 1 am Friday morning. We would then have a vote on final passage on the bill at 7 am on Saturday morning. Following passage of the DoD bill, Senator Reid would file closure on the manager’s amendment, substitute amendment and the underlying bill on health care. This would set up the first cloture vote on the manager’s amendment on Monday morning at 1 am. The second cloture vote on the substitute amendment would be Tuesday at 7 am. And, the cloture vote on the underlying bill would be Wednesday at around 1 pm. We could get an agreement to wrap up and have a final passage vote on the 23rd, however Republicans could continue to not cooperate and force us to have a vote on final passage on Christmas Eve. We then need to deal with the debt limit. If we get consent with the Republicans, we could vote on that before we leave for Christmas. If not, we will have to come back the week between Christmas and New Years to vote on that.

Just so you can plan your holiday season. Of course, this all depends on whether or not they actually have the 60 votes, an open question.

• This was more because of time zones than middle-of-the-night scheduling, but Barack Obama arrived in Copenhagen at the COP 15 conference, delivering a stirring speech, acknowledging that the outcome of a global pact was in doubt and exhorting the nations of the world to reach an agreement:

For while the reality of climate change is not in doubt, I have to be honest, as the world watches us today, I think our ability to take collective action is in doubt right now, and it hangs in the balance.

I believe we can act boldly, and decisively, in the face of a common threat. That’s why I come here today — not to talk, but to act. (Applause.)

In the speech, he committed the US to specific targets for emission reduction, transparency and exchange of information on those targets, and financing for poorer countries adapting to a warming planet.

I just want to say to this plenary session that we are running short on time. And at this point, the question is whether we will move forward together or split apart, whether we prefer posturing to action. I’m sure that many consider this an imperfect framework that I just described. No country will get everything that it wants. There are those developing countries that want aid with no strings attached, and no obligations with respect to transparency. They think that the most advanced nations should pay a higher price; I understand that. There are those advanced nations who think that developing countries either cannot absorb this assistance, or that will not be held accountable effectively, and that the world’s fastest-growing emitters should bear a greater share of the burden.

We know the fault lines because we’ve been imprisoned by them for years. These international discussions have essentially taken place now for almost two decades, and we have very little to show for it other than an increased acceleration of the climate change phenomenon. The time for talk is over […]

We are ready to get this done today — but there has to be movement on all sides to recognize that it is better for us to act than to talk; it’s better for us to choose action over inaction; the future over the past — and with courage and faith, I believe that we can meet our responsibility to our people, and the future of our planet. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Obama headed right into meetings with the Chinese premier and several other world leaders in the hopes of salvaging a deal, which looked tenuous as of Friday.

OK, you’re up to date.

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David Dayen

David Dayen