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Congressman Miller Attends Pope's Address To Congress

photo via Flickr//James Jackson

  Pope Francis became the first Pontiff to address a joint session of congress during his visit to Washington on Thursday. Cong. Jeff Miller called it “an honor” to attend the historic event.

“I think the delivery of the speech in English was showing a humbleness,” said Miller. “Because it is obviously not his native language, and he had to work very hard in order to deliver such a long speech.”

Francis reminded the representatives and senators that they have been called to work that "is always based on care for the people." Miller says he was also pleased by the tone of the Pope’s message to lawmakers, which he described as one of reconciliation and praise.

In his Washington visit, the Pope delivered his message of compassion and unity at a moment of particular turmoil for Congress. Miller is hoping the Holy See’s words can lead to a reduction of the contentiousness seen on Capitol Hill.

“We have to be able to work together to solve the issues that confront us here in the United States,” Miller said. “

The threat of a partial government shutdown looms next week unless lawmakers can resolve a dispute over funding for women's health services at Planned Parenthood, which also performs abortions and provides fetal tissue for researchers.

“Planned Parenthood needs to be defunded, and we need to go about it in a way that will do it on a permanent basis,” said Miller, “There are thousands upon thousands of other clinics that are available in the nation. There is no entitlement to a Planned Parenthood funding line.”

Francis didn't join that controversy, alluding only in passing to the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion when he noted, to applause, the responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

Miller bases his argument against funding Planned Parenthood, in part, on videos said to have exposed the organization as one that sells fetal tissue. A number of reports have criticized the videos as heavily edited and out of context, and that Planned Parenthood does not sell such tissue.

Miller is having none of it.

“Has there been any evidence that it did not occur? The answer is no,” Miller said. “They can shift all they want to, to try to change the focus of the debate. The fact remains that it occurred.”

The Senate on Thursday stopped an effort by Republicans to deny federal funding for Planned Parenthood as part of a bill keeping government agencies operating on Oct. 1st, the start of the new fiscal year. This after President Obama had said he would veto any such spending bill containing that amendment.

“That’s the point, precisely. It would be the President, then, shutting the government down, should he choose to veto the legislation, said Miller.

And the controversy has reached the Sunshine State. Documents surfaced earlier this month showing that Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office suppressed the findings of state regulators, who found there was “no mishandling of fetal remains” by Planned Parenthood clinics.