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Congress passed a stopgap measure on Wednesday morning that prevents a government shutdown for another two weeks. But legislators would do themselves a favor by passing a long-term solution before that extended deadline, because polls indicate that if they fail to do so, Congress -- rather than President Obama -- would suffer the brunt of voters' ire.

Without a completed budget bill, the government would effectively shut down until one is passed, as happened in 1994. Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to that prospect; about 60% of respondents to surveys conducted by Gallup and PPP said they didn't want to see the government temporarily shuttered.

But if a shutdown does occur, polls have shown more Americans would pin the blame Congressional Republicans than on Obama. However, when surveys pit Obama and Congressional Democrats against Republicans in Congress, the blame gets spread more evenly.

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Tax cuts for millionaires and budget cuts to social programs are one thing, but touch House Democrats' paper coffee cups and you're in a world of hurt.

Democratic leaders have been waging a war of words against the GOP majority after Republicans canceled a composting program and replaced the cafeteria's biodegradable cups, plates, and utensils with styrofoam and hard plastic. Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-CA), who announced the move last month, said in a press release the House Inspector General concluded the process of composting the green utensils added $475,000 annually to the Capitol's operating costs with only marginal environmental benefits versus the usual approach of burning trash and using the heat to create energy. In addition, the biodegradable materials drew frequent criticism from cafeteria-goers, who complained the utensils broke easily and the cups could not hold coffee without overheating and even sometimes leaking out the bottom.

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Some semblance of negotiations are beginning in the standoff in Wisconsin, where state Senate Democrats have fled the state in order to block a budget quorum on Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union proposals -- but only a semblance.

As the Wisconsin State Journal reports, GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen met on Monday in Wisconsin -- at a McDonald's in Kenosha, right near the Illinois state line.

Fitzgerald is taking the meeting as a sign that some Democrats could be itching to return home: ""There's six, seven, eight, nine of them that are starting to say, 'Listen, we're starting to look like we're out of touch with what's going on in Madison, and it's time to get back."

However, Cullen told the paper that a lone return will not happen. "No one will go back and be the 20th vote," said Cullen. "We'll go back as a group."

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In an alternative universe concocted by Fox News, Andrew Breitbart, and TCOT (top conservatives on twitter), the Madison capitol has become the island in Lord of the Flies, except the savages in this case are union "thugs." The mob has taken over, thick with radicals, and Republicans are likely to be attacked as a matter of course.

In reality, the long protest in Madison has been remarkably civil. As a testament to that, conservative media outlets are having a hard time finding examples of on-scene violence in Wisconsin that really bring their alternative narrative home. They've even gone so far as to claim their own reporters are under assault when they are not. Indeed, just as they accuse unions of busing in protesters from out of state, they've bussed in out-of-state footage, to make a case that can't be made by the facts.

Check out this clip from Monday night's episode of the O'Reilly Factor, a lower-quality version of which has gone viral on social media sites.

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On Wednesday morning, the Senate will pass a short term spending bill to postpone a government shutdown until at least March 18. After that, it becomes a question of whether Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate respectively can come to a longer-term agreement, to keep the lights on through September.

What's already settled is that any such agreement will include spending cuts. What isn't known yet is whose priorities win the day -- which federal accounts get more money, and which get less. But more important than that may be whether rank and file Republicans in the House will be willing to vote for a spending bill that strips away their controversial policy priorities.

When the House passed a seven-month funding bill last month, it included scores of riders, which deny funding to the Obama administration to do -- well, many things: implement the health care law, implement environmental regulations, the list goes on. Neither President Obama, nor the Democratic Senate are likely to accept most of them as part of a longer-term "continuing resolution," and so the question now is whether those House Republicans will revolt.

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Stephen Colbert was incensed on Tuesday night that, while every other news station was trumpeting their "exclusive interviews" with Charlie Sheen, Katie Couric of CBS news had the audacity to lead with a story about Libya.

"Really, Katie? Qaddafi?" Colbert said. "Charlie Sheen is a Golden Globe winner. Qaddafi wasn't even nominated for his guest appearance on 'Shit My Dad Says.'

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Mild-mannered perhaps to a fault, Tim Pawlenty hasn't exactly been observers' pick for presidential candidate most likely to capture the imagination of the rowdy Tea Party movement.

Yet the Minnesota governor is giving it his all, launching an aggressive effort to court the conservative grassroots in early primary states and around the country with appearances at Tea Party events, red meat rhetoric, and outreach in the crucial caucus state of Iowa.

On Saturday, Pawlenty was the keynote speaker at the Tea Party Patriots Summit in Arizona, delivering a rousing love letter to the activists in attendance, whom he labeled "modern day Paul Reveres."

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The Daily Show kicked off their presidential election coverage last night with the first installment of Indecision 2012. The was just one problem: there are no Republican candidates officially running yet.

Jon Stewart was incredulous, asking why, if the President is really as radical as Republicans claim, they aren't clamoring to take him on.

"Hurry up!," Stewart said. "By then the teachers unions will have us all under Sharia law panels!"

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Lila Rose, the head of the anti-abortion activist group LiveAction, decried Eric Holder's statement on Tuesday that the FBI will not prosecute in connection with a LiveAction video "sting," which was aimed at catching Planned Parenthood employees looking the other way on sex traffickers.

"An untold number of women, and possibly underage girls, are being exploited and likely in danger and the Justice Department is looking the other way," Rose said in a statement.

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