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House Republicans held their first hearing to grill the creators behind the Healthcare.gov website on Thursday.

Having discovered a genuine, verifiable problem with the president’s signature legislative accomplishment — the site just doesn’t work as designed — Republicans seized the opportunity to focus on nonsense.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) split hairs over an HTML comment that was mistakenly left inside the code and has no bearing on the functionality of the site.

“You know it’s not HIPAA-compliant,” Barton said to Sheryl Campbell, the senior vice president at CGI Federal, the chief contractor behind the site. “Admit it! You’re under oath!”

The congressman was referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which protects the privacy of patients’ medical records.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) defended Campbell by pointing out a key aspect of the Affordable Care Act — it bans the concept of pre-existing conditions. Thus medical history is irrelevant and not part of any application.

“So once again, here we have my Republican colleagues trying to scare everybody—” Pallone said.

When Barton tried to get Pallone to yield back the floor, the congressman from New Jersey said, ” No, I will not yield to this monkey court or whatever this thing is.”

“This is not a monkey court,” Barton responded.

We’ll leave it to PolitiFact to rule on this controversy.

Joe Pallone Monkey Court

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, and former President Donald Trump.

Photo by Kevin McCarthy (Public domain)

In the professional stratum of politics, few verities are treated with more reverence than the outcome of next year's midterm, when the Republican Party is deemed certain to recapture majorities in the House and Senate. With weary wisdom, any pol or pundit will cite the long string of elections that buttress this prediction.

Political history also tells us that many factors can influence an electoral result, including a national crisis or a change in economic conditions — in other words, things can change and even midterm elections are not entirely foretold. There have been a few exceptions to this rule, too.

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