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“Republicans Desire To Claim A Scalp”: Why A Congressman Would Say, ‘This Interview Didn’t Happen’

By now, the basic outline of this week’s Planned Parenthood controversy is probably familiar to most news consumers. A right-wing group released a sting video – as right-wing groups are wont to do – featuring a Planned Parenthood official talking candidly about fetal tissue, which prompted a conservative uproar.

Soon after, we came to realize that the right-wing group edited the video in a misleading way– as right-wing groups are wont to do – and the “controversy” didn’t amount to much of anything. It’s not clear why the Washington Post put the story literally on the front page, since there are no credible allegations of wrongdoing. Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum called it a “nothingburger,” adding, “In the end, this is just another sad attempt at a sting video that goes nowhere once you get beyond the deceptive editing.”

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards officially responded to the story yesterday, explaining that the organization did nothing wrong, though she acknowledged that the Planned Parenthood official featured in the sting video spoke with a “tone” that was “unacceptable.”

In theory, that should effectively end the controversy, such as it was, and since my wife works for Planned Parenthood – her work is completely unrelated to fetal tissue and she played no role in this report – I was prepared to look past it altogether. But a Roll Call article yesterday pushed the story in an unexpected direction: some congressional Republicans have known about the video for weeks.

Rep. Tim Murphy, a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee looking into the video, said at a Wednesday news conference he’d seen the clip weeks before.

Asked afterward why he and others waited until this week to take action, Murphy struggled for an answer before abruptly ending the interview with CQ Roll Call, saying he should not be quoted and remarking, “This interview didn’t happen.”

Well, actually, it did happen, and members of Congress can’t talk to reporters, then retroactively pretend they didn’t.

In this case, Roll Call asked why the story, if it’s as scandalous as Republicans are now claiming, didn’t break immediately. If GOP lawmakers consider the revelations an outrage, why did some members say nothing for nearly a month?

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), before pretending the interview “didn’t happen,” said, “Um, I don’t know why. All I know is I saw it and he said he was going to post it eventually, so that’s all I know.”

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), one of Congress’ most strident opponents of reproductive rights, also said he first saw the video about a month ago, but also said nothing. “The hope was to have as much information as possible so that the authorities could be notified effectively before the media,” Franks argued yesterday.

It’s a curious argument. Republicans have spent the week characterizing this as a potentially criminal scandal, but when some far-right lawmakers saw the video weeks ago, they didn’t feel the need to do much of anything – they didn’t run to the GOP leadership to demand action; they didn’t call allies in conservative media; they didn’t hold a press conference to express outrage. If they genuinely saw the video as proof of illegal Planned Parenthood activities, notifying the “authorities” could have happened immediately.

But it didn’t. So what is this really all about? Consider this Politico report published overnight:

Republicans on Capitol Hill are betting the secretly filmed Planned Parenthood video — depicting an executive allegedly discussing the sale of fetal organs from terminated pregnancies — will give them cover to more aggressively push abortion issues without the political ramifications that have haunted the party in the past. […]

[Iowa Republican Steve King] was one of the first lawmakers to urge the defunding of low-income housing group ACORN, which went belly up following similar undercover videos suggesting criminal activity.

To this day, he keeps a tiny acorn in his pocket to remember his crusade. Now, he’s got his eyes on another organization. “This represents ACORN’s scalp,” King said off the House floor Thursday, pulling the acorn out of his pocket. “Ask me after the appropriations cycle and see if I have a talisman in my pocket for Planned Parenthood’s.”

Ah, there it is. Republicans don’t have proof of Planned Parenthood wrongdoing, but rather, have a desire to claim a “scalp.” When the GOP went after women’s healthcare in 2012, it backfired on the party, so Republicans hope a misleading video will offer new opportunities to try the same move again.

That’s the point of the GOP calls for investigations, hearings, and probes. That’s why Republicans are trying to use this story to raise money and advance their personal ambitions.

Those who were inclined to take the story seriously should probably adjust their perspective accordingly.

Postscript:  The video released by the Center for Medical Progress doesn’t show Planned Parenthood doing anything illegal, but whether the video itself was recorded illegally is a separate matter.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 17, 2015

July 18, 2015 Posted by | Planned Parenthood, Republicans, Steve King | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s A Whole Different Issue”: John Boehner, Willfull Ignorance Or Willful Lying?

The day after this week’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Army Secretary John McHugh said the gunman lived off post and was therefore not required to register his weapon with the military.

McHugh told senators yesterday, “We try to do everything we can to encourage soldiers to register their personal weapons, even when they live off post. We are not legally able to compel them to register weapons when they reside off post.”

Soon after, during House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) press conference, a reporter noted McHugh’s comments and asked the House leader whether this is an issue Congress should address. Boehner replied:

“Well, there’s no question that those with mental health issues should be prevented from owning weapons or being able to purchase weapons. In the so-called ‘doc fix’ that passed here, there was funding for a pilot project dealing with mental health issues and weapons from both the Senate side and the House side. There are two programs that are being funded in there. The bill went to the president yesterday. This issue we need to continue to look at to find a way to keep weapons out of the hands of people who should not have them.”

The “doc fix” bill related to Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians, but it’s always a pretty big bill with plenty of unrelated provisions. This year, there was quite a bit of controversy surrounding how the bill passed – House GOP leaders played a fast one on their own members and conservatives were right to be annoyed – but I never heard a word about funding for a pilot project dealing with mental health issues and firearms.

And that’s surprising. Usually, any federal measure related in any way to gun ownership is the subject of considerable scrutiny. But there was the House Speaker yesterday, assuring the public in the wake of another mass shooting that lawmakers just acted on a policy related to gun violence and mental health.

It’s enough to make one wonder: does the provision Boehner referenced actually exist?

Roll Call reports this morning that according to the lawmaker who wrote the measure, no, it doesn’t.

Speaker John A. Boehner Thursday morning said that Congress had recently passed a provision to address whether people with mental health issues have access to weapons, but the measure’s Republican author said his bill actually does nothing of the sort.

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., told CQ-Roll Call that despite Boehner’s assertion, his measure to incentivize outpatient treatment for mental health issues has nothing to do with keeping guns out of the hands of the severely mentally ill.

“Not our bill, no. It’s a whole different issue,” Murphy told Roll Call. “I think he confused that. When he said that it dealt with it, I think he confused that.”

I checked the text of the legislation itself and it includes no references to gun, weapons, or firearms.

Murphy went on to say, “What this provision that I had in there allows in states is an outpatient treatment for patients who have a risk of past incarceration or past multiple hospitalizations where they were a safety risk, to work to say, ‘We need to get you back in treatment, get your life back together.’ That does not necessarily preclude or affect anything about a person’s ability to own a gun, unless they also have a history of being put in against their will.”

When Boehner says Congress just approved a project “dealing with mental health issues and weapons,” he appears to be wrong.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 3, 2014

April 5, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, John Boehner, Mental Health | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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