A contentious debate over blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving taxpayer money took an unexpected turn just before midnight Thursday when Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) shocked her colleagues by announcing on the House floor that she once had an abortion.
Just before Speier assumed the floor, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), one of the most ardent anti-abortion voices in Congress, spent several minutes reading explicit descriptions of what happened to one woman when she had an abortion.
"I planned to speak about something else. But the gentleman from New Jersey just put my stomach in knots," Speier began. "I'm one of those women he spoke about just now. I had a procedure at 17 weeks pregnant with a child who moved from the vagina into the cervix. The procedure you just described is the procedure I endured."
Hushed conversations in the back of the chamber between aides and lawmakers ceased as Speier made the declaration to her colleagues.
"For you to stand on this floor and suggest that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly, is preposterous," Speier said to Smith.
The House entered its third day of debate Thursday on a bill to run the federal government through the end of September. But much of the debate Thursday night devolved into a three-hour discussion about abortion as Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) sponsored an amendment to prohibit federal money from flowing to Planned Parenthood.
For more than 30 years, a statute called the Hyde Amendment has banned the use of federal dollars for abortion services. Still, many of the exchanges on the House floor focused on abortion and its impact.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) accused Pence of crafting a "bill of attainder" with his amendment. The Constitution bans Congress from drafting a specific measure focused on a particular individual or organization.
The House plans a vote on Pence's plan Friday.
Friday and perhaps Saturday are key days for House Republicans as they aim to complete the government funding bill and slash $100 billion in spending.
"We have had a very elevated week of debate about the entire government," said the author of the legislation, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY). "We are making progress, but we have a ways to go."
Rogers then proffered a roadmap to guide lawmakers through the next couple of days. He proceeded to rattle off a laundry list of 129 amendments that the House needs to debate and vote on before completing the package. Rogers then rifled through a list of the amendments by their assigned numbers.
"Eight, 13, 19, 23, 38, 42, 46..." Rogers read.
"Bingo!" shouted Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) from across the room, drawing a laugh.
Even though the House agreed to Rogers' blueprint to finish the bill, Rep. Barney Frank seized the floor to express strong reservation about the overall package.
"I will object strenuously at every opportunity," warned Frank, hoping that the Senate would give "this awful product an appropriate burial."
Frank also criticized Republicans for how they handled the legislation on the House floor.
"To be lectured by you about what is a travesty...is a travesty," said Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) to Frank.
At that point, Frank returned to the well of the House to respond to Gohmert. But the Texas Republican would give the Massachusetts Democrat no quarter.
"I will not yield. I listened to you," thundered Gohmert as he thrust an index finger in Frank's direction.