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Speaking to a crowd of union workers on Capitol Hill today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unloaded on Republican plans to lower the deficit through deep cuts to government services in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. Frustrations are running high in Congress with the default deadline rapidly approaching, and Pelosi spoke with a fire that suggested the endless debate over the debt ceiling is taking its toll on her patience.

"This isn't just about them saying we should reduce the deficit," she said, adding: "This is an excuse. The budget deficit is an excuse for the Republicans to undermine government plain and simple. They don't just want to make cuts, they want to destroy. They want to destroy food safety, clean air, clean water, the department of education. They want to destroy your rights."

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By John Voelcker

Last week, Toyota said it expects to sell 16,000 or more 2012 Prius Plug-In Hybrid models in the U.S. next year, once the car is launched (in June or before).

For all intents and purposes, it's a standard Toyota Prius hybrid with a larger battery pack that uses lithium-ion cells. The car can be plugged into a wall outlet to recharge the battery on grid electricity.

Still, we wonder whether the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In may be the car that gets U.S. car buyers more comfortable with plugging in their cars?

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One of the most influential conservatives in Congress says he's confident his own Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will lack the votes to pass his plan to raise the debt limit in the House of Representatives.

Complicating matters further for Boehner -- the Dems' top vote counter wryly suggested at a simultaneous press briefing that few, if any, Democrats will vote for the GOP's bill, since there is a preferable Democratic plan waiting in the wings. That suggests House conservatives are holding the line against any debt limit increase that can plausibly pass the Senate -- and that Democrats will have added leverage to muscle their own plan through both chambers.

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As nearly every news cycle over the last few weeks has been dominated by how much the U.S. government owes, who we owe it to, and what could potentially happen if we don't figure out a way to raise the debt ceiling, there is a simple question: why do we even have this thing?

Simple. Congress wanted checks and balances to the checks and balances.

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After President Obama's call to action Monday night in a televised address to the nation, calls were still pouring into Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, overloading telephone circuits.

The volume was so high mid-morning that House administrators sent out an e-mail to all House offices advising them that the flood of external calls was resulting in outside callers "occasionally getting busy signals." The e-mail gave House offices an alternative extension to pass along to district office and staff so they could get through.

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Classrooms in California are now required by law to include lessons about the historical contributions of a number of minorities, including gays and lesbians. Sounds innocent enough, no? Well, according to a conservative group that is pushing to repeal the law, it both "promotes the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lifestyles" and "forces children to study materials that tell them their families' values are wrong."

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As a sign of just how reluctant conservatives are to throw in their lot with House GOP leadership and pass their plan to avoid default, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) suggested to reporters Tuesday that the votes aren't there yet.

"We're going to have some work to do to get it passed," Boehner said at a brief press conference in the lobby of RNC Headquarters. "But I think we can."

Democrats are whipping against the bill, to prevent Republicans from claiming bipartisan support for their plan. And if all Dems vote no, Boehner has a slim margin for error if he's going to squeeze his plan through the House. More than three dozen Republicans have pledged in the past not to support an increase in the debt limit unless and until Congress passes a Constitutional amendment requiring balanced budgets, slashing spending to historic lows, and functionally prohibiting tax cuts. If they all adhere to that pledge, Boehner's bill can't pass.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) been a ubiquitous presence in Iowa since launching a presidential bid. Less so on Capitol Hill, where she's missed 40% of her votes in that span.

According to The Hill, Bachmann's absentee rate is significantly higher than other lawmakers currently running; Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who is not seeking re-election to focus on his presidential race, has only missed 8% of his votes since declaring his candidacy. Thad McCotter (R-MI) has missed 10%.

That stat could be especially perilous for Bachmann, however. Tim Pawlenty has repeatedly accused her of being an ineffective legislator and it wouldn't be surprising to see the 40% number show up in his public statements this week.