COBURN’S CRAVENNESS…. Sen. Tom Coburn, a right-wing Republican from Oklahoma, is apparently not above callous opportunism. He saw headlines about mammogram screening, headlines about a proposed tax on elective cosmetic surgery, and in his drive to kill health care reform, decided to combine some disparate talking points.

[Yesterday], Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who is a physician and staunchly opposed to this legislation, suggested on the Senate floor that a woman would be taxed if she had breast reconstruction surgery following cancer.

“In this bill is a 5% tax on cosmetic surgery,” Coburn said. “Just yesterday — the day before yesterday, U.S. preventive task forces, services, recommended because it’s not cost effective that women under 50 not get mammograms unless they have risk factors. Well, you tell that to the thousands of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer lat last — last year under 50 with a mammogram. You tell them it’s not cost effective. Also in this bill is a 5% tax on the breast reconstruction surgery after they had a mastectomy. They’re going to tax having your breast rebuilt after your breast is taken off because it is elective plastic surgery. It is elective cosmetic surgery. We’re going to have a tax on it because we’ve taxed elective cosmetic surgery. We’re in trouble as a nation because we’ve taken our eye off the ball.”

As Republican lies on health care go, this one’s pretty despicable.

For one thing, Coburn doesn’t understand what the Preventive Services Task Force said — the mammogram recommendation had to do with research-based standards, not cost.

More important, though, the legislation’s provision on a 5% tax on elective cosmetic surgery clearly excludes procedures for those with congenital abnormalities, disfiguring diseases, or traumatic injuries. Anyone requiring reconstructive surgery resulting from accidents or diseases would be exempt.

There is no “5% tax on the breast reconstruction surgery after they had a mastectomy.” Coburn’s making it up, hoping no one notices how offensive his lying really is.

Ruth Marcus asked the other day, “You have to wonder: Are the Republican arguments against the bill so weak that they have to resort to these misrepresentations and distortions?”

It’s a question that will be coming up again and again.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.