The health care overhaul debate has become more contentious than some of its proponents initially assumed – and the gloves are off.

Tonight, House Republicans are taking to the floor to defend their First Amendment right to free speech in the context of the health care fight during one-hour Special Order speeches.  Here’s what’s at the heart of the issue, via CNS News:

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) made public last week an e-mail from the Franking Commission — a bipartisan panel that oversees messages from lawmakers — asking him to change the phrase “government run” health care to "public option."

The term was part of an audio message recorded by Carter’s staff for a town hall event on health care. The message said: “The House Democrats unveiled a government-run health care plan.”
The Franking Commission, which is authorized by law to oversee mail and other communications between members of Congress and their constituents that is paid for with federal funds, sent an e-mail to Carter’s staff  requesting that the wording in the message be changed.

Democrats on the Franking Commission are apparently also blocking the approval of payment for postage for a mail piece from a group of House Republicans that contains a chart that visualizes the Obama administration’s and Congressional leaders’ plans for a government takeover of the health care system.   The blocking of approval of payment demonstrates a clear double standard, as Connie Hair, writing for Human Events, points out:

House staff sources said that in 1993 a similar chart depicting then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s government-run healthcare scheme was approved for mailing by the Franking Commission.

A previous attempt by House Republican members to speak out against what they argue amounts to censorship was blocked by the Democrat leadership who abruptly adjourned rather than allowing Republicans to take the floor under Special Orders. This time, Republicans have vowed they won’t be silenced, and will take their speeches outside to the Capitol steps if necessary.

Nationalization of whole industries, Keynesian spending explosions, government-run health care and now censorship … This is still America, right? I am starting to wonder…

Photo credit: Ciro Cattutto