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In his speech to the Human Rights Campaign Saturday night, President Obama said he will stand by his nominees if they are attacked, presumably referring to two openly gay nominees that have been drawing fire from the right wing.

"Nobody in America should be fired because they're gay, despite doing a great job and meeting their responsibilities. It's not fair. It's not right. We're going to put a stop to it," Obama said. "And it's for this reason that if any of my nominees are attacked, not for what they believe but for who they are, I will not waver in my support, because I will not waver in my commitment to ending discrimination in all its forms."

He did not refer to the nominees by name.

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It's starting to look more and more like Texas governor Rick Perry orchestrated an effort to thwart a state probe into an arson investigation that may have led to the execution of an innocent man.

Sam Bassett -- the former chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, who Perry declined to reappoint last month -- is now saying that Perry's aides tried to pressure him over the direction of the inquiry his panel was conducting into the steps that led to the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for arson. Perry, as governor, signed off on the execution, despite clear evidence that the investigation was flawed.

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Appearing this morning on MSNBC, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) strongly rejected any comparison between his "Die quickly" attack on Republicans and Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-SC) "You lie!" interruption of President Obama.

"Comparing what Joe Wilson did to what I did -- it's not the same," said Grayson. "What I did is like a Bob Dylan protest song. What Joe Wilson did is like a belch."

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A foundation closely linked to Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) has collected over $800,000 in donations, much of it from industry sources with stakes in legislation moving through Buyer's committees, but has given out just $10,500 in six years and spent a whopping $258,136 in operating expenses, the Lafayette Journal & Courier reported Sunday.

Buyer's daughter is the president of the Frontier Foundation, which was set up purportedly to give scholarships to Indiana students, Buyer himself was described as "honorary chairman" in a 2004 solicitation letter, and the organization in June listed Buyer's district office as its office.

Despite all of that, Buyer's office told the newspaper, "It's not Congressman Buyer's foundation," and declined an interview request.

The Journal & Courier reports:

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview with NBC this weekend in Switzerland (and broadcast on Today this morning) that President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize won't influence "some of these tough decisions" he has to make on the war in Afghanistan.

Clinton said the prize was a recognition of Obama's "attitude toward America's role in the world, his willingness to challenge everyone to kind of step up and take responsibility" and that it "really restores an image and an appreciation of our country."

On Afghanistan, Clinton made an interesting comment -- in response to a question from NBC's Ann Curry -- implying that if the U.S. doesn't send more troops to Afghanistan, it might be immoral to keep any troops there at all.

"If the President decides not to send more troops to Afghanistan, morally, can he still keep 68,000 U.S. troops there?"

Gen. Jack Keane (Ret.) made a similar point on CNN yesterday, saying that if Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal doesn't have enough troops, "that gets very difficult in terms of a moral dilemma, asking the troops to do something that you believe is going to fail."

Will be interesting to see how the proposed troop increase gets cast in "moral" terms in the coming days.

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The spokesman for the Democratic majority on the Senate Finance Committee pulled no punches in his response to a new health insurance lobby study that's critical of the reform bill drawn up by the committee.

"This report is untrue, disingenuous and bought and paid for by the same health insurance companies that have been gouging too many consumers for too long as they stand in the way of reform yet again," Scott Mulhauser said. "It's a health insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple."

Read his full comment after the jump.

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The White House is pushing back on the new study commissioned by America's Health Insurance Plans suggesting health care costs would increase under the bill the Senate Finance Committee is voting on this week.

White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass called the report a "self-serving analysis" from an opponent of any kind of health insurance reform.

"It comes on the eve of a vote that will reduce the industry's profits," Douglass told TPMDC. "It is hard to take it seriously. The analysis completely ignores critical policies will lower costs for those who have insurance, expand coverage and provide affordable health insurance options to millions of Americans who are priced out of today's health insurance market or are locked out by unfair insurance company practices."

AHIP is a D.C.-based association representing more than 1,000 insurance companies and has been fighting the administration's efforts all year.

We'll have more on this throughout the day - if you hear members of Congress citing the report, let us know.

Late update: Evan has the Senate Finance Committee Dems' response here.

Later update: An AHIP spokesman responded on Fox this morning and we have the clip.

Hillary Clinton: Obama Given Nobel For Restoring 'Image And Appreciation of Our Country' Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Today show that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because of "his attitude toward America's role in the world." "His willingness to really kind of challenge everyone ... restores a kind of image and appreciation of our country," said Clinton.

Baucus Bill Committee Vote Will Require Leap Of Faith For Several Senators The Hill reports that the Baucus bill is likely to clear the Finance Committee, with the votes of Democratic members who are in fact critics of it -- but are taking a leap of faith that they can improve it on the Senate floor: "The fact that critics of the Baucus bill such as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are already strategizing for the floor debate is a strongest indication that Baucus will have the support he needs on Tuesday."

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Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network -- an organization that assists those affected by "don't ask, don't tell" -- released a rather lukewarm statement in response to President Obama's speech Saturday night at a Human Rights Campaign event.

We were heartened to hear the President say, "I will end 'don't ask, don't tell.'" But an opportunity was missed tonight. SLDN was disappointed the President did not lay out a timeline and specifics for repeal. The 65,000 gay and lesbian service members -- who put their lives on the line and who remain impatient with the pace of progress -- deserve to know when their commander in chief and Congress plan on getting rid of this law.


We received a similar statement from Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out -- a nonprofit that seeks to defend "the GLBT community against anti-gay misinformation campaigns through media advocacy and university outreach."

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