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A top member of President Obama's health care team said today that his summit with Republicans and Democrats will help move the health care reform measure forward.

"I think he sees this as a step to actually accelerating the process forward. He wants to move forward. He wants a bill at his desk and he sees this as kind of closing the loop and let's go," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Huffington Post after a speech today at an event sponsored by health care magazine Health Affairs and Academy Health.

She also said Obama wants to tell Republicans, "Rather than just sitting on the sidelines and saying 'We don't like this, we don't like that,' come forward and show us your plan."

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Two weeks ago, we told you about one of the DCCC's unlikely 2010 targets: Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). National Democrats say Sessions is vulnerable, and they've placed him on their list races to watch this year. Last week, as Sessions launched his reelection campaign the DCCC stepped up its attacks on the well-known conservative.

National Democrats are eager to highlight Sessions' ties to alleged Ponzi schemer Alan Stanford. After Stanford came under investigation from the SEC last year, Sessions, who accepted tens of thousands in donations from Stanford for the NRCC, sent Stanford a note that suggested their relationship was a close one.

The DCCC couldn't be more pleased. It didn't take the group long to go after Sessions after he opened his new campaign headquarters last week.

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The National Tea Party Convention, which wrapped up Saturday night with a televised speech by Sarah Palin, offered an outlet for some of the fouler strands of modern conservatism that had long been bubbling beneath the surface of the Tea Party movement.

Tea Party leaders had worked hard to keep the public face of the movement focused tightly on a small government, anti-tax message, largely steering clear of social issues, and appeals based explicitly on race. But this weekend, from the podium at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Hotel, convention speakers espoused birtherism, anti-immigrant nativism, homophobia, Christian fundamentalism, and an apparent nostalgia for racially discriminatory barriers to voting.

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Rep. Paul Ryan is blaming the "Democratic attack machine" even though members of his own party don't publicly support his plan to dramatically cut Medicare and Social Security and effectively privatize those entitlement programs to end the deficit.

In an interview with the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Ryan (R-WI) defended his "Roadmap" budget blueprint as a way to "prevent a fiscal crisis" in a government that's on a "path to insolvency."

Ryan insisted in the interview his plan was to get ideas on the table and end the policy stalemate in Washington. As we have been reporting, GOP leadership has backed far away from the Ryan plan and instead is touting their skeletal plan from 2009.

"The Democratic attack machine is in full throttle," Ryan told the newspaper. "It's sad but predictable."

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The United States and The European Union issued a joint statement today that called on Iran to fulfill its human rights obligations. Here's the full text:

The United States and the European Union condemn the continuing human rights violations in Iran since the June 12 election. The large scale detentions and mass trials, the threatened execution of protestors, the intimidation of family members of those detained and the continuing denial to its citizens of the right to peaceful expression are contrary to human rights norms.

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White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan yesterday struck back at Congressional Republicans who have been attacking the administration for giving the attempted Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights. Brennan said on Meet the Press that top GOP-ers raised no objections to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being held in FBI custody.

Brennan said he called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader John Boehner, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Pete Hoekstra and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Kit Bond on Christmas night to tell them Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody.

"I explained to them that he was in FBI custody, that Mr. Abdulmutallab was, in fact, talking, that he was cooperating at that point," Brennan said. "They knew that 'in FBI custody' means that there's a process then you follow as far as Mirandizing and presenting him in front of a magistrate," Brennan said.

"None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point. They didn't say, 'Is he going into military custody? Is he going to be Mirandized?'" he said.

"There has been quite a bit of an outcry after the fact where, again, I'm just very concerned on behalf of the counter-terrorism professionals throughout our government, that politicians continue to make this a political football and are using it for whatever political or partisan purposes," he said.

Watch:

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With some of the country's top Republicans at the fore of the effort to create a new conservative think tank in Washington, the American Action Network is almost sure to become a political force when it launches later this month.

The public roll-out is scheduled for Feb. 22, so it's a good time to look at a few of the people who are reportedly helping to fund the American Action Network.

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Scott Lee Cohen, the Democratic candidate for Illinois lieutenant governor, announced last night that he is leaving the race over allegations of domestic violence and drug use.

Speaking to reporters at a Chicago bar during the Super Bowl, Cohen frequently choked up as he made the announcement.

"For the good of the people of the state of Illinois and for the Democratic Party, I will resign," he said. The Who's halftime performance can be heard in the background.

"With all my heart, I'm sorry," Cohen said.

Members of his family, seated around a table, also broke into tears.

Video after the jump.

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February 8, 2010: Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) passed away this afternoon at the age of 77. First elected to office in 1974, he was the longest serving Member of Congress in Pennsylvania. Murtha, who served for 37 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, was also the first Vietnam Veteran elected to Congress.

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The 17th annual Scripps Howard Celebrity Super Bowl Poll awarded its Super Sage Award to the Pennsylvania Congressman. Murtha shows off his trophy.

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July 20, 2006: Murtha and Tim Roemer, the president of the Center for National Policy. The Pennsylvania Representative was presented with the Edmund Muskie Distinguished Public Service Award for his "lifetime of patriotic service to the nation."

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Murtha visits Marine troops in New River, NC on August 12, 2009.

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On a tour led by Democratic congressional candidate Linda Stender, Murtha eyes the ceiling of the New Jersey State Capitol building. The two had just finished a press conference in Trenton, NJ on October 13, 2006.

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Murtha jokes with House Appropriation Committee chair Rep. David Obey (D-WI) on April 23, 2007.

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Throughout his Congressional career, Murtha has received repeated scrutiny for potential ethics violations and corruption charges. A bulk of the accusations leveled at Murtha involve his proximity to military contractors.

Murtha served as a Marine during the Vietnam War. Above, Murtha chats by a U.S. Army missile with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA).

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On November 12, 2004, Murtha places a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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