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With the threat of a government shutdown looming if Republicans and Democrats don't agree on spending cuts by the end of the week, President Obama is stepping up his role in last-minute budget negotiations and plans to meet with Congressional leaders over lunch Tuesday.

Democratic senators and Vice President Joe Biden have said both sides have agreed to a rough spending-cut figure of $33 billion but are still haggling over whether to include several policy riders on the bill and exactly where to focus some $6 to $8 billion of the spending cuts.

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Negotiations between congressional Democrats, Republicans and the White House to avoid a government shutdown took a turn for the worse Monday, as top Republicans issued coordinated statements calling Democrats' spending cut goals too low, and preemptively blaming them if the Friday deadline passes without a deal.

"Despite attempts by Democrats to lock in a number among themselves, I've made clear that their $33 billion is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). "That's unacceptable. ... If the government shuts down, it will be because Senate Democrats failed to do their job."

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Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), who is exploring a run for president, has also been exploring something else: awkward pop culture references, in a speech this past weekend to the Iowa Federation of College Republicans.

The Des Moines Register reports:

"I think what the younger voters have figured out is that this is a broken relationship. He made soaring promises and grand expectations. He's broken those promises," he told the crowd of students. "If this was a Lady Gaga song, the relationship between the youth vote and Barack Obama would be 'Bad Romance.'"

Pawlenty, Minnesota's most recent former governor and a potential future presidential hopeful, said the news of the day has been dominated by the tragedy in Japan, issues in the Middle East, and Charlie Sheen.

"We may not in this room have tiger blood like he does," Pawlenty said, referring to the television actor, "but we've got something else in common with him. There's going to be a lot of winning on the Republican side in 2012."

Who knows -- maybe it'll sound better in Pawlenty's next action movie trailer campaign video.

Prepared remarks from Attorney General Eric Holder:

"In November 2009, I announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other individuals would stand trial in federal court for their roles in the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11, 2001.

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As this budget debate heats up, Republicans will remind us all that their plan preserves Medicare as it currently exists for people 55 and over -- so it's not really fair to say anybody's benefits are in danger. If you have it now, or will get it in 10 years, you're in traditional Medicare.

Think about that for a second, and you'll see why it's a bogus promise. Let's say you're 55 and Ryan's plan passes and you think "whew! I dodged a bullet. I still get the regular, mostly reliable Medicare my parents had."

Then 15 or 20 years later, when you get really sick, you find that the Medicare program itself has dwindled dramatically. About half the people who were in the risk pool when you entered the program are dead, and the other half are older and sicker than they were at the outset. Keep going down that rabbit hole and one day there'll be a program called Medicare designed to insure one person -- the oldest surviving Medicare recipient who got in before Ryan's plan took effect.

This is absurd -- and the obvious implications are that either a). doctors will stop taking Medicare patients in larger and larger numbers over time, or b). that Congress will have to ratchet up its reimbursement rates to make sure those patients can realize their guaranteed benefits, and thus eat into the spending cuts Ryan's plan is supposed to achieve.

Either way the policy makes no sense.

President Obama took a long-awaited drubbing on his broken campaign promise of closing the detainee prison facility at Guantanamo Bay after news broke Monday that Attorney General Eric Holder had reversed plans to try 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City and will instead have them stand trial before military commissions at the U.S. base in Cuba.

The administration's decision is a 180-degree about-face from earlier plans announced in November 2009.

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Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwall released the findings of a review of state election laws and proceedings on Friday, in the wake of the 2010 senatorial race contested by Republican candidate Joe Miller.

The report recommends a number of changes to election proceedings, but notes in the findings that "perhaps the single most important finding in the review is that no change in procedure or state law recommended would have changed the outcome of the 2010 General Election."

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