A House Judiciary Committee hearing erupted when Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.) got into a shouting match over the term “unborn children” and put the chasm that has formed between Republicans and Democrats on full display.
At issue is H.R. 6878, a bill sponsored by Bass and entitled the “Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women Act,” which aims to “address the health needs of incarcerated women related to pregnancy and childbirth, and for other purposes.”
It was Gaetz’s time to question Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), who referenced “women’s reproductive freedom” and “unborn children.”
The notoriously outspoken Florida lawmaker wanted Ross to clarify whether or not the bill addressed abortions for incarcerated women.
“You used the phrase ‘unborn child,’ in your most recent debate,” Gaetz said to Ross after thanking her for yielding to a few clarifying questions. “What does that phrase mean to you?”
“Mr. Gaetz,” snapped back Ross, “Ms. Bass would like to answer your questions. I am finished with you right now, and I do not yield.”
“So, that’s telling, right?” Gaetz responded. “I mean, I’m just here trying to get answers to questions. Miss Bass, you didn’t use the words that were confusing, so I’m not going to yield to you–”
And that’s when things got heated.
Bass jumped in, presumably to rescue Ross, who apparently said the quiet part out loud when she brought up unborn children.
“It is my bill!” Bass shouted.
“But you didn’t use the words and description of it,” Gaetz countered.
Bass was determined to prevent Ross from answering, and the two began talking over the top of each other as Gaetz insisted it is Ross who needed to clarify her choice of words.
“If I want to ask questions of Miss Ross, she could choose whether or not to yield to give the answers,” Gaetz stated. “But you covering for her–”
“You’re not really interested in the answers,” Bass interrupted. “You’re interested in theater.”
“–she doesn’t know the words she uses and cannot, in the Judiciary Committee, sit and answer the questions on something as important as life or death when I control the time is outrageous!” Gaetz exclaimed, slamming the table twice with his hand in frustration.
“Are you done?” Bass asked.
“I’m done with my turn– When I’m done, you can yield for those questions–”
Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) banged his gavel and reminded Bass that “It’s Mr. Gaetz’s time.”
“It’s crazy that, in this committee, when I’m trying to get honest answers to questions about the effect of the bill and whether or not it paves the way to abortions–”
“You don’t want honest answers,” Bass interrupted again.
“–that you all want to sit up there and squawk at me rather than allow me to ask questions,” Gaetz continued, undeterred by Bass’s attempts to dismiss him.
“When you have the time, you can control the time,” he snapped back at Bass. “How about that?”
And then he schooled the defensive sponsor of the bill.
“These are fair questions,” Gaetz stated firmly. “She used the phrase ‘unborn child.’ I would like to know what that means to her. Because what it means to us is it is a life.”
“You can ask her on a break,” Bass snidely shouted back.
“You know what? I want the answer on the record, Miss Bass,” Gaetz demanded. “I want the answer for the American people. Because to all of us–my party that was impugned–we actually think that unborn life is a child and that there is a liberty interest there that is worthy of our defense and our protection and the values that undergird the American Constitution.”
“I don’t think that’s too unreasonable,” he declared. “And by the way, if you use a phrase in this committee, you shouldn’t have to have a senior member answer the questions for you. You should be able to answer those questions yourself, and if not, I think it speaks to the credibility of the debate that is offered.”
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