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Members of the "Gang of Six," the bipartisan group of senators who have spent the last few months hammering out a comprehensive budget plan based on the Simpson-Bowles commission, are under new scrutiny after reports that President Obama might endorse the deficit panel's findings in his speech tomorrow.

Many commentators on the left have expressed serious concerns such a move would be politically disastrous and undermine Democratic morale heading into battle against a far-reaching House GOP budget proposal that would privatize and drastically cut Medicare. Asked about the issue, Democratic members of the 'Gang of Six' were sensitive to any suggestions that their proposal -- or Obama's -- could be confused with Paul Ryan's "draconian" plan.

"Anything that [Obama] would propose would be dramatically different from the really draconian proposals of Mr. Ryan," Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, told reporters. "Mr. Ryan, the first thing he does is cut taxes by well over a trillion dollars for the wealthiest among us, so he digs the hole deeper which means his cuts have to be far more draconian."

Asked by a reporter whether wading into Medicare cuts could divide Democrats, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) also pushed back against comparison to Ryan.

"I can say with certainty there will be a clear difference between Paul Ryan and Barack Obama on Medicare," he said.

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) suggested Tuesday that Congress will allow the country to hit its debt ceiling, and continue to hold out for dramatic spending cuts while the nation approaches a genuine default.

"I think Treasury has, if I'm not mistaken, has put ... out a notice that there is a window within which we have to act in order to avoid the eventual default of this country on its debt," Cantor told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing. "And I believe that that outside deadline is early July."

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White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that House GOP Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) blueprint for next year's spending is fundamentally unfair.

"It fails the test of balance, and balance is essential," Carney told reporters at a briefing.

The comments come one day before President Obama plans to give a landmark speech on his vision for reducing the nation's deficit and cutting long-term spending.

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Just call him Sen. The Unconquered.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) spoke on Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, against government plans to phase out the incandescent light bulb in favor of the newer compact fluorescents.

And in this speech -- promoted by his office in a press release entitled "Sen. Paul Rails Against the Collective" -- he borrowed from none other than the writings of Ayn Rand, whose early novel Anthem featured the light bulb as a plot device.

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Americans have almost nothing nice to say about the budget negotiations that narrowly averted a government shutdown, but that doesn't mean they have nothing to say at all.

In a Pew poll released Tuesday, just 3% of adult Americans nationwide used positive terms to describe the budget negotiations, while 69% described the negotiations negatively. Additionally, 16% used neutral terms to express their feelings about the budget wrangling that nearly resulted in a government shutdown last week.

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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told a gaggle of bloggers at the Heritage Foundation Tuesday that the controversial results of the state Supreme Court race in the Badger State surprised him, and indicate that Wisconsin isn't as pro-union as the thousands who gathered in and around the state capitol in Madison during the collective bargaining fight might want to think.

He also said that the battle between pro and anti-collective bargaining sides during the budget fight last month was much uglier than has been reported, with unknown leftist "thuggery" leading many state legislators to be "intimidated."

Johnson, who replaced Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in the Senate in the Republican sweep of the Wisconsin ballot in 2010, said that the apparent defeat of liberal Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenberg will significantly slow the roll of unions as they attempt to stop Republicans across the country from passing laws they don't like.

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Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) says layoffs of public employees could be on the way -- if his new law curtailing public employee union rights reminds bottled up in court.

WisPolitics reports:

Gov. Scott Walker says he may have to again consider laying off state employees if his collective bargaining law remains tied up in the courts for much more than the next week or two.

"(But) for now, we're still ready to implement it once we get the green light from the courts," Walker told WisPolitics.com as part of an administration effort to mark his first 100 days in office today.

The Republican guv adds the state has no plans to retroactively collect the higher health care and pension payments from state employees if the courts clear the way.

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