A bill to continue funding troops in Iraq and Afghanistan might not sound controversial, but Senate Republicans did their best to block it this morning. Thirty-three of them voted to filibuster the legislation--just seven votes short. The only Republicans to join Dems approving the bill were Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine. So why would Republicans--who spent years reproving Democrats for insufficiently supporting the troops -- vote to cut off their funding? (House Republicans, meanwhile, voted overwhelmingly to support the funding measure.) Observers think it's a tactic designed to stall the health care vote. For their part, liberals are incensed, while conservative writers are conspicuously silent.

  • All About Health Care The Washington Post's Paul Kane and Lori Montgomery are clear on the "unusual move designed to delay President Obama's health-care legislation." They write, "Republicans have said their goal is to delay the bill and force Senate Democrats to go home and face their constituents, hoping for some supporters of the measure to return after New Year's too fearful to back the legislation. If the filibuster on the $626 billion defense bill had succeeded, Democrats would have had to scramble to find a way to fund the military operations, because a stopgap funding measure for the Pentagon will expire at midnight Friday. Such an effort to come up with another stopgap defense bill might have disrupted the very tight timeline on health care."
  • Becoming 'Party of No' a Risky Strategy NBC News asks of the GOP, "Can you govern if you're unwilling to play ball? [...] Aren't they handing Obama the 'obstructionist' message that benefited Bush and Clinton in their first terms?" They ask, "How many times can you say 'no'?" Given how many GOP-friendly concessions have been made in health care, "It may be that the politics of this and the bitterness that's descended inside the Senate prevent anyone from crossing party lines. But do Republicans risk looking totally like obstructionists if some of their bigger concerns about the bill are gone?" Chuck Todd adds, "Senate GOP rolled dice big time with the attempt to filibuster the troop funding bill as a way to delay [health care] action."
  • GOP Hands Dems Major Symbolic Victory Salon's Thomas Schaller writes, "Why do Republicans hate our troops? If shoe were on other foot, you know GOPers would be asking the same of Democrats." He advises, "Not only does this go against all of the soft-on-defense attacks the GOP has launched against Democrats since, oh, 1968. But some Republicans openly admit they are doing it. If President Obama and Senate Democrats cannot turn this into a holy shit storm of criticism, there's something wrong with them."
  • Republicans End Troop-Loving Charade Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas shakes his head. "At least Republicans don't have to pretend to give a shit about our troops anymore. That must be a relief for them. Let's tally it up: GOP sends troops to die in optional war, then vows to filibuster funding for them. Yup. Definitely looks like hate."
  • Obstruction at Any Cost Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler is appalled. "Republicans are upping the obstruction--and they're playing chicken with U.S. troops to do so," he writes. "For their part, Republicans aren't exactly being coy about what their play is. 'We're doing everything we can to stop this bill,' [Minority Leader Sen. Mitch] McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told reporters this afternoon."
  • Why Obama Needs Democratic Unity The American Prospect's Tim Fernholz notes, "This is why, despite the higher support for the War in Afghanistan among Republicans, the president can't really rely on their help in Congress if his own party continues its intransigence on the subject -- the GOP will drop any principle, including their support for escalation in Afghanistan, to score meager political points or delay the passage of the majority agenda."
  • Political Game With Troops Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill hits back, "Hard to believe. Funding runs out tomorrow. A political game with the troops?"