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Scott Horsley

Drawn-out fights over spending bills are nothing new for Congress. But that's where the fights used to stay: in Congress. The rest of the country didn't have to pay much attention to countdown clocks and all this drama.

"In the '60s and '70s down until 1980, it was not taken that seriously at all," says Charles Tiefer, a former legal adviser to the House of Representatives, who now teaches at the University of Baltimore Law School. In the old days, he says, when lawmakers reached a budget stalemate, the federal workforce just went about its business.

President Obama's health care law has so far survived challenges in Congress and the courts. But its biggest test could begin next week. That's when the online marketplaces offering health care coverage to the uninsured are set to start signing people up. The question is, will they come?

President Obama took his fiscal fight with congressional Republicans to America's heartland Friday. Speaking at a Ford assembly plant near Kansas City, Mo., Obama warned that the federal government could turn into a "deadbeat" unless Congress passes a stopgap spending bill and agrees to raise the debt limit within the next few weeks.

A surprise agreement between the U.S. and Russia, announced Saturday, calls for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons by mid-2014. The deal follows a chaotic week of seat-of-the-pants foreign policy.

Performing on the international stage, Obama and his Cabinet secretaries have offered up one plot twist after another, though it often seems as if the actors are working without a script.

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President Obama will stand in the symbolic shadows of Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln Wednesday, as he marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Aides say Obama will use the opportunity to celebrate the progress that's been made, thanks to the civil rights movement. He'll also discuss the work that he says still has to be done to realize King's dream of racial justice in America.

That includes fighting to protect voting rights and building what the president calls "ladders of opportunity" for poor people of all races.

President Obama toured Pennsylvania and New York by bus on Thursday and Friday to promote his college affordability plan.

He's proposing a affordability-rating system that would steer federal aid, but a budget battle with Congressional Republicans is looming.

'A Major Debate'

The tour had a back-to-school theme, but at his stop on Thursday, the fall semester hasn't even begun. Obama spoke to a packed high school gym in Syracuse.

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It's back-to-school season for college students — and President Obama plans to be right there with them.

The president will spend the next two days on a bus tour of New York and Pennsylvania that includes stops at three colleges and a high school. At each stop, he'll be talking about ways to make college more affordable.

The president's big black bus will make its first stop at the University at Buffalo on Thursday — the same day incoming freshmen will be moving in, hauling suitcases and mini-refrigerators.

President Obama broke his silence on the Trayvon Martin shooting case Friday, speaking publicly for the first time since a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman.

Obama didn't question the jury's not-guilty verdict, but he spoke in unusually personal terms about the history and experiences that shape the way African-Americans in particular see the case.

He spoke frankly about the pain the Trayvon Martin case has left, especially in the African-American community. He said that's a product of a common history that doesn't go away.

For decades after the 1930s, the National Labor Relations Board served as the arbiter for squabbles between management and unions, or workers who wanted to join a union. In more recent years, though, the board itself has become a battleground.

Democratic appointees to the NLRB have grown increasingly sympathetic to organized labor, while Republican appointees have grown increasingly hostile, says Harley Shaiken, who studies labor relations as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

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