c) A day for repeating the same old arguments over spending and taxes, only louder.
d) All of the above.
If you picked "d," you're in the proper spirit for federal Budget Day, which appropriately falls on Groundhog Day this year. It's safe to predict we're in for way more than six more weeks of Republicans and Democrats fighting over how to spend our money.
Here are five things to know before President Barack Obama's 2016 budget fully emerges Monday:
IT'S JUST AN OPENING BID
Despite all the hoopla surrounding it, a president's budget is merely a suggestion. That's especially true this year, with Obama delivering his multi-trillion-dollar wish list to a Senate and House run by the opposition.
The Constitution gives Congress power to decide how to spend taxpayers' money. After lawmakers get the president's budget, they'll set about coming up with their own, very different, spending plan. There's a hitch, though — their legislation needs Obama's signature to become law.
If the president and Congress can't compromise on spending, that's how we end up with a partial government shutdown. Republican leaders and Obama say they don't want that to happen this year.
Still, the usual big disputes loom: Obama wants more spending and higher taxes on the wealthy. Most Republicans want to spend less — except on the military — and resist tax increases.
Plus, this year Republicans are promising to use spending bills to attack Obama's signature health care law and to roll back his order giving some immigrants relief from deportation.
OBAMA WILL BID HIGH
The president will call for increasing spending on agency operating budgets by 7 percent next year, blowing through limits set in an earlier bipartisan deal.
Previewing the detailed document to be released Monday, the White House said it would call for spending about $74 billion more next year than the painful automatic cuts Obama signed into law in that 2011 deal commonly known as the "sequester." Those harsh automatic cuts were originally set in motion as a threat that would force bipartisan agreement to replace them with something more sensible, but it didn't work.
Obama would roughly divide the extra money he seeks between the military and domestic programs, such as college aid, medical research and child care.
The White House, without giving details yet, says Obama would offset his spending increases by cutting inefficient programs and closing tax loopholes. In that way, he could continue the recent trend of shrinking the nation's annual budget deficits.
Republicans say that's no good. They prefer to tackle the deficit by holding domestic spending in check, or trimming even more.
A BIG QUESTION: HOW MUCH DOES THE MILITARY GET?
The military brass has been pleading for relief from their automatic spending limits. Many lawmakers in both parties, eyeing terror attacks and trouble spots around the globe, are anxious to help.
Obama's proposal to raise the defense budget by $38 billon would allow for more ships and fighter jets. By bundling the military increase with more domestic spending, Obama will pressure Republicans eager to boost the military budget to give in to some of his priorities.
Will Republicans insist on holding the line on spending, even if it means the Pentagon has to go without, too? And how far are Democratic lawmakers and Obama willing to go in using national defense as a bargaining chip?
If Congress is sure to reject and redo Obama's budget proposal, you might wonder: Why does he bother?
For one thing, the law says he has to submit a budget to Congress by the first Monday in February, although Obama has sometimes missed that deadline.
Plus, the federal budget is a big deal. It's expected to be in the vicinity of $4 trillion — that's trillion with a "t'' — for the fiscal year beginning in October.
It goes much deeper than political rhetoric about ending big government or boosting the middle class.
The budget carries thousands and thousands of decisions about concrete things the government does — like paying park rangers, Border Patrol agents and workers who answer IRS help lines. Spending money for air traffic control, medical research and food inspection. Weeding out ineffective programs and launching new ones that, hopefully, work better.
The exercise has gone awry over the last few years, leading to showdowns and a 2013 shutdown and failure to complete the normal budget process in a gridlocked Congress.
But the budget minutia that federal agencies sweat over and congressional committees are charged with overseeing is what keeps the U.S. government running.
MOST OF THE BUDGET IS ON AUTOPILOT
Running federal agencies isn't even the half of it.
The biggest share of the budget goes to what's called "mandatory spending" — ongoing payments that don't need annual approval by Congress. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are the biggies. Others include unemployment checks, food stamps and pensions for veterans and government retirees.
To take on the nation's long-term debt problem, lawmakers and the president would have to deal with these growing costs.
So far, attempts to reach this sort of "grand bargain" have failed, repeatedly.
Associated Press writers Josh Lederman and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.
Follow Connie Cass on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ConnieCass
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two pilots in a helium-filled balloon on a record-setting journey across the Pacific Ocean entered the final leg of their trip Friday as they traveled along the California coast for an expected landing somewhere in Mexico.
The pilots made history Thursday, first matching and then surpassing the 5,209-mile (8,383-kilometer) official world distance record for human flight in a gas balloon. Their next milestone is a 1978 duration record of 137 hours, 5 minutes and 50 seconds in the air in a traditional gas balloon — a mark that's considered the "holy grail" of ballooning achievements. The Two Eagles team expected to surpass that Friday morning.
They hope to land Saturday somewhere on the peninsula of Baja California, where volunteer chase crews were being organized to help with the landing.
The balloon team originally planned to cross into North America in Canada but shifted the plans because of changing weather. They are now catching a wind pattern that will take them south toward Mexico.
The balloon was about 400 miles northwest of San Francisco when it hit the distance mark. Everyone inside the control room had their smartphones pointed at the screen to document the moment.
"There it is! There it is!" shouted team members at the flight's mission control in Albuquerque as a giant screen showed the helium-filled Two Eagles balloon passing the record set by the Double Eagle V in 1981.
In a matter of hours, they hit another milestone in similar fashion when they reached the 5,260-mile mark. That's the distance — 1 percent more than the current record — they needed to meet in their quest to establish a record under international aviation rules.
The distance still has to be confirmed by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, a process that can take weeks.
"We're not taking any time to celebrate," said Steve Shope, head of mission control. "We have a lot of work we have to do, and we're just taking this flight one hour at a time."
The Two Eagles pilots, Troy Bradley of Albuquerque and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia, are aiming to set both distance and duration records with their flight from Saga, Japan, which began shortly before 6:30 a.m. Sunday Japan time.
The duration record was set in 1978 when Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman made the first trans-Atlantic balloon flight.
The pilots had been aiming for Canada until a high-pressure ridge formed off the U.S. West Coast, forcing a sweeping right turn toward Mexico, where they now plan to land on Saturday.
The shifting weather patterns resulted in a flurry of decision-making that made for a hard night for the pilots and mission control. Shope said the pilots were in better spirits Thursday after getting some sleep, but he acknowledged that being on oxygen for that many days and the high altitude can take a physical toll.
Because weather conditions vary at different altitudes, the pilots traded speed and altitude throughout Thursday so the balloon would track to the south.
"It's a pretty sophisticated dance up there," said Ray Bair, a member of the mission control team.
The balloon is outfitted with an array of monitors and other instruments that are tracking its course and compiling data to be submitted to the record-keepers. With a massive, helium-filled envelope and a specially-designed carbon fiber-composite capsule, it was designed to stay aloft for up to 10 days, but the loss of gas and ballast has shortened that time by a couple of days.
The last task will be a safe landing.
Sand dunes along the peninsula were looking like the best option, Bair said. There are more favorable spots immediately along the Mexican coast, but then come the mountains.
GRAND ISLE, La. (AP) — Nearly two dozen turtles that were stranded by cold weather last year in Massachusetts have successfully undergone rehab and have been returned to waters off Louisiana's coast.
More than 1,200 young, "cold-stunned" Kemp's ridley sea turtles were stranded in November and December.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "cold-stunning" occurs when the circulatory systems of sea turtles exposed to frigid water temperatures for several days slow down to a point where the turtles cannot function.
Various sea-turtle rehabilitation facilities along the east and Gulf coasts joined in the effort to care for the stunned turtles.
Suzanne Smith, stranding-and-rescue coordinator for the Audubon Nature Institute for Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles, said 21 of the 27 turtles she and her colleagues received were released into the Gulf of Mexico, 24 miles off the coast of Grand Isle, on Thursday.
"It was a beautiful day," she said. "We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day."
The turtles were placed in open produce boxes and carefully transported for about 100 miles from the institute's aquatic center before being loaded onto the back of two boats, one provided by Audubon and the other by the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Carefully shielded from the sun, they were then transported 24 miles out to sea, where the boats' engines were shut off to ensure the turtles' safe re-entry into the wild.
Each turtle was released by hand on a cloudless, sunny day with temperatures in the low 70s and calm seas — a sharp contrast to the conditions that existed when they were stranded in New England.
The turtles immediately swam from the boats, disappearing into the sun-warmed water as Smith and Audubon Nature Institute veterinarian Dr. Tres Clarke exchanged a triumphant high-five.
One of the 27 turtles the Audubon institute received did not survive, Smith said. The other five, which had suffered from pneumonia or problems with their shells and flippers, will remain in the rescuers' care for about a month to receive antibiotics and nutrition.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — With California gripped by a measles outbreak, Dr. Charles Goodman posted a clear notice in his waiting room and on Facebook: His practice will no longer see children whose parents won't get them vaccinated.
"Parents who choose not to give measles shots, they're not just putting their kids at risk, but they're also putting other kids at risk — especially kids in my waiting room," the Los Angeles pediatrician said.
It's a sentiment echoed by a small number of doctors who in recent years have "fired" patients who continue to believe debunked research linking vaccines to autism. They hope the strategy will lead parents to change their minds; if that fails, they hope it will at least reduce the risk to other children in the office.
The tough-love approach — which comes amid the nation's second-biggest measles outbreak in at least 15 years, with at least 98 cases reported since last month — raises questions about doctors' ethical responsibilities. Most of the measles cases have been traced directly or indirectly to Disneyland in Southern California.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says doctors should bring up the importance of vaccinations during visits but should respect a parent's wishes unless there's a significant risk to the child.
"In general, pediatricians should avoid discharging patients from their practices solely because a parent refuses to immunize his or her child," according to guidelines issued by the group.
However, if the relationship between patient and doctor becomes unworkable, the pediatrics academy says, the doctor may want to encourage the vaccine refuser to go to another physician.
Some mothers who have been dropped by their doctors feel "betrayed and upset," said Dotty Hagmier, founder of the support group Moms in Charge. She said these parents made up their minds about vaccines after "careful research and diligence to understand the risks versus the benefits for their own children's circumstances."
Dropping patients who refuse vaccines has become a hot topic of discussion on SERMO, an online doctor hangout. Some doctors are adamant about not accepting patients who don't believe in vaccinations, with some saying they don't want to be responsible for someone's death from an illness that was preventable.
Others warn that refusing treatment to such people will just send them into the arms of quacks.
The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or MMR, is 97 percent effective at preventing measles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Measles spreads easily through the air and in enclosed spaces. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. In rare cases, particularly among babies, measles can be deadly. Infection can also cause pregnant women to miscarry or give birth prematurely.
All states require children to get certain vaccinations to enroll in school. California is among 20 states that let parents opt out by obtaining personal belief waivers. Some people worry that vaccines cause developmental problems, despite scientific evidence disproving any link. Others object for religious or philosophical reasons.
Nationally, childhood measles vaccination rates have held steady for years at above 90 percent. But there seem to be growing pockets of unvaccinated people in scattered communities, said Dr. Gregory Wallace of the CDC.
In recent years, nearly all U.S. measles cases have been linked to travelers who caught the virus abroad and spread it in this country among unvaccinated people.
Northern California's Marin County has a high rate of people claiming personal belief exemptions. In 2012, Dr. Nelson Branco and his partners at a Marin County practice started turning away toddlers whose parents refused to make sure they received the measles vaccine.
Branco said 10 to 20 of his practice's 8,000 or so patients left after the change.
Vaccines "can be spooky for parents," Branco said. But "in the end, we have the science. We have the experience that it's the right thing to do."
AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe contributed to this report. Follow Alicia Chang on Twitter at @SciWriAlicia
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — The 18 New England residents sitting on the jury in the murder trial of former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez will be allowed to watch the home team play in Sunday's Super Bowl, but the judge overseeing the case says they must leave the room if his name is mentioned.
Hernandez caught quarterback Tom Brady's last Super Bowl touchdown pass in the Patriots' 2012 loss to the New York Giants. Now he is on trial for murder, charged with the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating his fiancee's sister.
The trial is playing out just as Hernandez's old team is preparing to take on the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL championship game.
Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh closed the second day of testimony Friday by telling jurors they may watch the game if it is important to them, but they must be vigilant for mention of the case or Hernandez.
"You hear that word, you've got to walk out of the room," Garsh said. "Distance yourself."
The judge has previously told jurors that they are not allowed to discuss the case with anyone, even to tell their families or employers that they are sitting on the jury for Hernandez. During jury selection, jurors were asked if they were Patriots fans, but that did not mean they were automatically disqualified from being selected.
Hernandez had a $40 million contract with the Patriots when he was arrested.
Earlier Friday, Lloyd's mother, Ursula Ward, was overcome with emotion and had to leave the courtroom as a prosecutor showed graphic photos of her son's body at the industrial park where he was found. The 27-year-old Lloyd was shown lying on his back with his left fist curled in a ball over the gunshot wounds to his chest.
It was the second straight day she left the courtroom in tears.
Lloyd's body was found riddled with bullets in an industrial park near Hernandez's North Attleborough home, not far from Gillette Stadium.
On Friday, two men who worked at a business in the industrial park described a teenage jogger coming to their office early on the evening of June 17, 2013, then leading them down to an empty lot.
One of the men, David Swithers, said he stopped about 20 feet away and saw a man on his back. The judge had cautioned jurors that the images would be graphic and that they shouldn't let their emotions sway them in the case.
"He was stiff and motionless. There were flies flying in and out of his nostrils," he said. "I called 911."
Also testifying Friday was Shaneah Jenkins, 23, who was dating Lloyd. Her sister, Shayanna, 25, is Hernandez's fiancee and the mother of his 2-year-old child. The sisters sit on opposite sides of the courtroom, Shaneah with Lloyd's mother and Shayanna with Hernandez's family. Shayanna Jenkins was not in court Friday.
Shaneah Jenkins testified Friday that she introduced Lloyd to Hernandez and that although they had a cordial relationship, they were not close. She said the two men would hang out in the basement or smoke marijuana together when they came to visit, but that, apart from the weekend Lloyd was killed, the two men did not spend time together without her there.
Hernandez's lawyer, Michael Fee, told jurors in his opening statement that Hernandez and Lloyd were friends and that Hernandez had no reason to kill him. He said they could have some day been brothers-in-law.
Shaneah Jenkins is expected to resume testimony the next day court is in session. That could be Monday, though the judge told jurors a snowstorm forecast for Monday could delay that.
In a separate murder case that has yet to come to trial, Hernandez was charged last year in Boston with killing two men in 2012 after someone spilled a drink on him at a nightclub. The judge has ruled that prosecutors in the Lloyd case cannot tell the jury about those slayings.
NEW YORK (AP) — Some new evidence this is a particularly bad flu season: Flu-related hospitalizations of the elderly are the highest since the government started tracking that statistic nine years ago.
About 198 out of every 100,000 people 65 and older have been hospitalized with flu-related illness this flu season. That's roughly 86,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC officials released the new flu season numbers on Friday.
It's the highest level seen since the government started tracking the statistic in the 2005-2006 flu season. The previous record was 183 per 100,000, during the flu season two years ago.
That flu season and this one were dominated by a virus known as H3N2. This year, the flu vaccine is not built for the H3N2 strain, which is the one that's spreading most widely.
Overall, the flu vaccine is only 23 percent effective this winter, CDC officials said recently.
That's one of the worst performances in the last decade, since U.S. health officials started routinely tracking how well vaccines work. In the best flu seasons, the vaccines were 50 to 60 percent effective.
Among infectious diseases, flu is considered one of the nation's leading killers. On average, about 24,000 Americans die each flu season, according to the CDC.
The CDC doesn't do a national count of adult flu deaths. But a tally of deaths from 122 U.S. cities indicated that 9 percent of all deaths last week were attributed to flu and pneumonia. That's not a record, but it's higher than what's been seen in the thick of most recent flu seasons. It reached 10 percent two winters ago.
The good news is flu season seems to have peaked, at least for much of the country, officials say.
"Nationally, we're on the decline. But we're still going up in some areas," said Lyn Finelli, the CDC's flu surveillance chief.
Flu seems is receding in the Southeast and Southwest, for example. But it's surging in New England and the West Coast.