Three Republican senators on Monday condemned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) comments that Republicans who oppose healthcare reform are akin to the opponents of abolition and women’s suffrage.

“Folks tend to crack under pressure,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) at a press conference. “It is an indication of desperation.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said he was “personally offended” by the remarks that were “beneath the dignity of the Majority Leader…and the Senate.”

Senate Republican Policy Committee chairman John Thune (S.D.) called the comments “inflammatory and irresponsible.”

I realize that conservative senators are waiting to pounce on just about anything, anxious to derail the debate by any means necessary. If that means pretending to be offended — Republicans are allegedly the “tough” party, except for their delicate sensibilities — so be it.

But this faux-outrage is silly. Reid was talking about the historic significance of the health care debate, and placing it in the larger context. Here’s what he said:

“Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Senate Republicans can come up with is: ‘Slow down, stop everything and start over.’ If you think you’ve heard these same excuses before, you’re right.

“When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, some dug in their heels and said, ‘slow down.’ When women spoke up for the right to speak up — when they demanded the vote — some insisted that they simply stop. When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to all citizens, regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today.

“And more recently, when Chairman Chris Dodd of Connecticut – one of the people who will go down in history as a chief champion of the bill before us today – said that Americans should be able to start and take care of their families without fear of losing their jobs, he heard the sane old excuses. Through seven years of fighting and more than one presidential veto, it was: ‘Slow down, stop everything and start over.’

“History is repeating itself before our eyes. There are now those who don’t think this is the right time to reform health care. But in reality, for many who feel that way, there will never be a good time to reform health care.”

Republicans may not like being on the wrong side of history — though, at this point, you’d think they’d be used to it — but that doesn’t make the historical context “inflammatory and irresponsible.”

Jim Manley, Reid’s spokesperson, said in a statement, “It is hard to believe Senate Republicans are making these charges with a straight face…. [F]or those who are counting, Republicans have now held one press conference on manufactured anger and have issued one manual on how to grind the Senate to a halt — but have held zero press conferences and issued zero plans on how to help Americans afford to live a healthy life.”

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Steve Benen

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.