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Democrats and Republicans can't even agree on the size of a stopgap measure to fund the government for one month -- let alone until the end of the fiscal year on Sept 30. But they have just a handful of working days to bridge that impasse because, if they don't, the government will shut down on March 4.

While top Republican and Democratic staffers from both chambers negotiate longer-term federal spending legislation, House and Senate Democrats say that the government should continue to operate at current spending levels until April. Those levels, they point out, are already reduced to a level set by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last year. And further across-the-board cuts would be too disruptive.

"Since this bill is intended to fund vital services like Social Security, our military and border security, it should have no legislation or riders tied to it," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a statement. "This bill will include the $41 billion in budget cuts that Democrats and Republicans agreed to in December, and will keep the government running for 30 days while both sides can negotiate a common-sense, long-term solution.

No way, say Republicans.

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Another abortion bill up for vote in the South Dakota House of Representatives would require women to obtain consent from their doctors before having an abortion, after the doctor determines that the decision is "voluntary, uncoerced, and informed."

The bill would also require women to attend counseling sessions at a "pregnancy help center" before the doctor can give his consent, and to schedule the appointment at least 72 hours after that consultation.

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Wisconsin State Rep. Gordon Hintz (D), who's been getting attention for an impassioned speech he delivered last week in defense of those opposing the state's anti-union budget bill, is now getting attention for a sexual misconduct citation he received earlier this month. In an e-mail to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Hintz says he's willing to take responsibility for his actions, but is also concerned that his "personal situation is distracting from the much more important issue facing the state."

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A group of government whistleblowers wants a special prosecutor appointed to handle the case of former Bush administration official Scott Bloch. The whistleblowers wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that Bloch "gravely damaged the federal civil service" and say they are concerned about "about the appearance of impropriety" because the federal prosecutor currently handling the case supported a plea agreement before Bloch withdrew his guilty plea.

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Memo to any Muslim cleric being interviewed by Gretchen Carlson: Prepare to be asked if you are associated with terrorism.

On Fox and Friends this morning, the co-host had a contentious interview with Anjem Choudary, the head of the controversial UK-based Islamic group Al-Muhajiroun, who is planning a March 3 protest outside the White House to call for the establishment of Sharia law in America. And it reached a boiling point when Carlson asked Choudary if, given his background, he would even qualify for entry into the United States.

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Donald Trump could conceivably fire Obama.

That's the weak position Obama finds himself in heading into the 2012 election, according to a Newsweek/Daily Beast poll of likely voters released today that shows the President tied or barely ahead of his potential GOP challengers to his reelection bid.

Obama and Mike Huckabee are tied at 46% apiece in the poll, while Mitt Romney trailed Obama by a slim two-point margin, 49% to 47%. And yes, eccentric real estate tycoon and reality TV host Donald Trump also trailed Obama by just two points, 43% to 41%. That's well within the poll's 3.5% margin of error.

Obama did, however, hold a decent edge on Sarah Palin, leading her 51 to 40%.

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An early favorite bites the dust. "[A]t this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America's future here in the trenches of the United States Senate," reads a statement from John Thune (R-SD) who was once thought to be considering a run for the presidency in 2012.

You can read his entire statement below the fold.

This will come as particularly disappointing news to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had encouraged him to run, and to New York Times columnist David Brooks, who shortly after President Obama was elected gushed "he is tall (6 feet 4 inches), tanned (in a prairie, sun-chapped sort of way) and handsome (John McCain jokes that if he had Thune's face he'd be president right now). If you wanted a Republican with the same general body type and athletic grace as Barack Obama, you'd pick Thune."

Thune was always going to have a tough time in the GOP primary field, particularly vis-a-vis his 2008 vote for TARP.

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Even now that the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has wrapped, the war over the supposed Muslim "infiltration" of the conservative movement is still going strong.

Tom Trento of the Florida Security Council wrote a fundraising e-mail asking potential donors for "financial support today to continue our mission to expose the Muslim Brotherhood in America." The e-mail also features an ambush interview with Suhail Khan, the former Bush administration official and member of the board of the American Conservative Union.

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Likely Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says that a government shutdown might be inevitable -- and that, really, won't be so bad for needy Americans.

"It's a very different environment this time. It think first of all, a lot of the things that were shut down were automated --like Social Security checks and Veterans checks -- so it's not going to be as draconian, if it does happen," Huckabee said on CBS. "But there has to be at some point a reckoning with reality."

"I think it could happen. And maybe it has to," he added. "Because sometime, either now or later, the government's going to shut down, either from bankruptcy in the future, or from a targeted effect to try to get someone's attention that we're overspending and not managing at all."

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This post has been updated.

Illinois is about to become the state of refuge for another band of legislative Democrats fleeing their home state to shut down a union-busting proposal.

The Indianapolis Star reports that Democratic members of the state House are heading out of state to prevent the Republican majority from moving forward on a bill "that would bar unions and companies from negotiating a contract that requires non-union members to kick-in fees for representation."

In scenes reminiscent of those in Wisconsin, the Indiana Democrats are using the legislature's quorum rules to stop the GOP, despite being outgunned in the legislature and in the governor's mansion, where potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitch Daniels currently resides.

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