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When 'satisfying vocal elements' is all that matters

House Republicans will spend the day approving the most restrictive anti-abortion bill considered in Congress in the last decade, even though they have many reasons not to. The bill won't be signed into law; it's unconstitutional; and it badly undermines the GOP's flailing "rebranding" campaign, while further alienating women voters.

So why bother? Because, as the New York Timesreported, "Republican leaders acknowledge that its purpose is to satisfy vocal elements of their base." And apparently, that's all that matters -- the base is a beast that must be fed, even if it's a pointless vanity exercise, and even if it undermines the party's interests.

But to fully appreciate how proponents are looking at this issue, consider these comments yesterday from Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), flagged by John Aravosis.

For those who can't watch clips online, Burgess, speaking during a Rules Committee hearing, complained that the legislation, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, was too liberal -- he wants the line moved to 15 or 16 weeks. Reflecting on his background as an OB/GYN, Burgess added:

"Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful. They stroke their face. If they're a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to think that they could feel pain?"

Some have suggested Burgess seemed to be referring to the concept of fetal masturbation, and, well, I'm not sure what Burgess was trying to say. Since a 15-week fetus doesn't have a developed central nervous system, the notion that it can feel much of anything is highly suspect.

This is, however, symptomatic of the state of the debate.

Remember, we're talking about House Republicans spinning their wheels on purpose, passing the decade's most restrictive bill on reproductive rights with the full knowledge that it will not become law. Indeed, as Rachel explained on the show last night, President Obama issued a formal veto threat yesterday afternoon, insisting that the proposal "shows contempt for women's health and rights."

But GOP lawmakers will go through the motions anyway.

Finally, as we discussed yesterday, House leaders have pulled Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) as the bill's chief sponsor, instead handing the proposal over to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). We're apparently supposed to believe that having a woman lead the way on Franks' bill makes it less offensive.

But as the day progresses, let's not forget that Blackburn is the same far-right Republican who wants to end funding for Planned Parenthood and opposes pay-equity laws.

A champion of women's interests she isn't.