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Representatives from the 77-member House Progressive Caucus gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to roll out their plan to cut the deficit and put the budget back into balance. Their simple solution: pull the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, install a public option for health care, raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations and voila, America is fixed.

The caucus plan, known as The People's Budget, was explained in some detail by Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs last week. Today, progressive members extolled the virtues of the plan as members sat waiting for President Obama to introduce a deficit reduction plan many Democrats worried would sacrifice necessary spending on the altar of a mistaken understanding of fiscal responsibility.

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The White House has released the text of President Obama's speech on the deficit, as prepared for delivery. Here's the full text:

Good afternoon. It's great to be back at GW. I want you to know that one of the reasons I kept the government open was so I could be here today with all of you. I wanted to make sure you had one more excuse to skip class. You're welcome.

Of course, what we've been debating here in Washington for the last few weeks will affect your lives in ways that are potentially profound. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page, more than just cutting and spending. It's about the kind of future we want. It's about the kind of country we believe in. And that's what I want to talk about today.

From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America's wealth and prosperity. More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.

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The framework for deficit reduction President Obama will lay out Wednesday is a mixed bag for members of his party. It borrows heavily in some areas from the conservative-leaning Bowles-Simpson recommendation, but commits elsewhere to enhancing the cost-cutting programs in the health care law and rejects Republican proposals to privatize entitlements, or maintain or reduce the tax burden on the upper class.

His Republican critics have made clear that the vast majority of Obama's ideas are non-starters. They reject all calls for tax increases and remain committed to repealing -- not strengthening -- the Affordable Care Act.

In his speech, he'll return the favor by drawing very sharp contrasts between his approach to reforming health entitlements and the GOP's which includes privatizing and unwinding Medicare and dramatically slashing Medicaid.

But progressives and liberal Democrats will blanch at many of Obama's other ideas. For instance, he will call for setting an arbitrary three-to-one ratio to govern how much deficit reduction should come from spending cuts vs. tax increases, and back the Bowles-Simpson cap on non-defense discretionary spending.

He also will endorse separate efforts to eliminate Social Security's long-term budget shortfall that leaves the door open to benefit cuts for future beneficiaries.

Here are the highlights. Taken together, the White House claims the program will reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years.

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said flatly Wednesday that President Obama is open to using the debt limit as a vehicle for long-term budget cuts.

At a Capitol press conference with congressional Republican leaders ahead of Obama's deficit reduction speech, a reporter asked if Obama had signaled that he'd be open to signing something other than clean legislation to raise the debt ceiling.

"Yes," Boehner said.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is waging a one-man war with the White House over $50,000 for a project in his home state that was nixed in the budget deal, but he really has his rock-ribbed conservative, Tea Party-loyalist South Carolina colleague Sen. Jim DeMint to blame for losing the money for a study on deepening the Port of Charleston.

Graham publicly blasted the Obama administration Tuesday for failing to include the funding for the study in its budget request laid out in February and threatened to block all of the President's nominations in the Senate because it was left out of the budget deal.

Graham on Tuesday took pains to say he is not requesting an earmark, but there have been several attempts to earmark money for the port study. DeMint effectively killed every one and refused to join a letter to the White House with the rest of the South Carolina delegation requesting the funds.

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Questioned Wednesday about his threat to "tie the Senate into knots" over $50,000 for a South Carolina port left out of the shutdown-averting spending deal, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) launched into an impassioned defense of the role of government in job creation.

"If you're a Republican and you want to create jobs, then you need to invest in infrastructure that will allow us to create jobs," he said at a press conference with Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee on Social Security in response to a question from TPM. "Congress, Republicans and Democrats, talk about creating jobs. How can you create jobs by shutting a port down that 260,000 people depend on?"

Graham said the $50,000 study now on the chopping block was crucial to advancing a $350 million joint federal and state project to ready the port for larger ships. Without it, Graham said, President Obama would have difficulty meeting his goal of doubling exports within five years.

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In his first major interview since launching his presidential exploratory committee, Mitt Romney was asked about the likely albatross of his campaign: His Massachusetts health care reform and its individual mandate to buy insurance, which Democrats have taken to publicly citing as an inspiration for President Obama's health care reform law.

Kudlow asked: "Are you going to, in this campaign, acknowledge that Romneycare in Massachusetts was a mistake?"

"Well, it wasn't perfect. The nature of all experiments, as it was, is that you have things that worked well and things that didn't work well, and that's true of what we did in Massachusetts," said Romney. "But I'm also going to recognize that that's the nature of our--of our free society, in a constitutional society, which is federalist, which says, look, let states experiment, find out what works and what doesn't, take the things that are good and build on them."

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In his first major interview after launching his presidential exploratory campaign, Mitt Romney stated in unambiguous terms that he is not a birther.

In a lengthy interview on CNBC, Larry Kudlow asked Romney about potential rival candidate Donald Trump's recent activism for the birthers.

"Now, he [Trump] has made a fetish, really, an obsession over questioning President Obama's citizenship and the birth certificate from Hawaii," said Kudlow. "Let me ask you on that subject, first of all, do you agree with Trump that Obama should be questioned on this? Do you feel that Mr. Obama has passed all the citizenship tests?"

"I think the citizenship test has been passed. I believe the president was born in the United States," Romney said.

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