IT’S TOUGH TO PARSE ‘BABY KILLER’…. Mid-day yesterday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his Republican caucus that he wanted them to “behave like grown-ups” as the process drew to a close.

The advice was not taken to heart. While Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) was delivering a surprisingly rousing speech in opposition to Republicans’ abortion-related motion to recommit, it sounded like a Republican lawmaker yelled, “Baby killer!” When a Democrat shouted back, “Who said that?” no Republican answered.

But in the wake of Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-S.C.) presidential heckling last year, and Republicans’ apparent abandonment of any sense of decorum, it was hard not to wonder: who did say that?

Today, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R) of Texas fessed up.

“Last night was the climax of weeks and months of debate on a health care bill that my constituents fear and do not support. In the heat and emotion of the debate, I exclaimed the phrase ‘it’s a baby killer’ in reference to the agreement reached by the Democratic leadership,” he said. “While I remain heartbroken over the passage of this bill and the tragic consequences it will have for the unborn, I deeply regret that my actions were mistakenly interpreted as a direct reference to Congressman Stupak himself.”

Neugebauer said he apologized to Stupak for the outburst.

“I have apologized to Mr. Stupak and also apologize to my colleagues for the manner in which I expressed my disappointment about the bill. The House Chamber is a place of decorum and respect. The timing and tone of my comment last night was inappropriate,” he said.

I see. So, “baby killer” was actually “it’s a baby killer.” Or so he says. Neugebauer would have us believe he was condemning the policy, not the pro-life Democrat. That’s strikes me as implausible, and rather ridiculous on its face, but the audio is online for anyone who’s interested and is willing to listen closely.

Either way, the way the GOP chooses to conduct itself continues to be a national embarrassment. If Republicans would at least try to, in Boehner’s words, “behave like grown-ups,” our discourse might improve, at least marginally.

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.