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Three lawmakers skewer facts while giving policy speeches

By Phillip Swarts

Friday - 3/29/2013, 4:05pm  ET

Congress is on a break this week, so here's some more of the whoppers that came out of lawmakers' mouths last week.

Appearing on MSNBC, Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., drastically overstated the number of victims of gun violence.

"We’re talking about millions of kids dying, being shot down by assault weapons," he said, voicing his support for a ban on the guns.

But information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control show there have been 939,782 violent deaths from firearm-related incidents in the past 30 years, just shy of a million and certainly short of the millions (plural) that Rangel claims.

And just considering the "kids" Rangel mentions shrinks the number even further.  Records show there have been approximately 100,00 deaths during the past 30 years involving people younger than 20.  Keep in mind, too, that these statistics represent violence from all types of guns, not just the assault weapons Rangel mentions.

One could argue these numbers are high, and we don't wish to imply that "just" 100,000 deaths is no big deal.  The point is that Rangel needs to accurately state the facts when he is arguing for tighter gun control.

The Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, also wrapped up last week, providing two Republican lawmakers a platform to get some facts wrong.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., claimed that the government's food stamp system, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), did little to help those in need.  Instead, she said, most of the money went to pay bureaucrats' salaries.

"Of every dollar that you hold in your hands, 70 cents of that dollar that’s supposed to go to the poor doesn’t. It actually goes to benefit the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. - 70 cents on the dollar," she said.

But the idea that 70 percent of all funding is going to "bureaucrats" doesn't hold up when compared to the actual budget of the Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP.  Taking into account expenses at the federal and state levels, the cost to run the program is roughly 4.5 percent of all funding it receives.  That means that for every dollar, almost 96 cents are going to help lower-income families get food and other supplies.

Bachmann was joined in her CPAC grandstanding by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who claimed that Democrats are deliberately targeting Catholics.

The Dems, who are "fighting a war on religious liberty," told the church to "change your religious beliefs or we'll use our power in the federal government to shut down your charities and your hospitals," Cruz claimed.

The senator pointed to such controversies as new healthcare regulations surrounding contraceptives.  The Catholic Church had complained that its institutions should not be required to provide birth control for employees due to religious concerns.

But despite Cruz's claims, the White House has tried to work with the church to develop exceptions to the contraceptive coverage.  And so far no Democrat in the administration or in Congress has threatened to shut down Catholic charities and hospitals as Cruz claims.

Congress meets again next week, meaning lawmakers will return to their usual platform for incorrect facts: the U.S. Capitol Building