Ryan pushes mental health bill after Colo. shooting

Greg Nash

In the wake of the deadly shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanCures bill in jeopardy amid drug pricing push Brent Budowsky: An epic battle for the future of Congress NRCC ad touts GOP rep for bucking Trump MORE (R-Wis.) on Tuesday called on Congress to pass a bill to fix the nation’s mental health system.

"What happened is appalling and justice should be swift," Ryan said of the Friday incident, in which Robert Dear Jr. allegedly opened fire at the clinic and killed three people. “Clearly we can do more, and one common denominator in these tragedies is mental illness.”

Ryan and his leadership team are backing legislation by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), a longtime psychologist, that would overhaul the mental healthcare system, especially focusing on helping people with serious mental illness. It would create a new assistant secretary for mental health and removes restrictions on Medicaid paying for certain mental healthcare.

The Murphy bill currently is working its way through the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Echoing GOP colleagues, Ryan’s remarks about the Colorado shooting focused on mental health rather than gun control.

“I'm sure members of both parties have lots of ideas in this area,” the Speaker said, “but we should make this a priority to prevent the violence and to protect our citizens.”

Some Democrats, however, have warned that the Murphy bill could lower privacy protections by allowing more treatment information to be shared with caregivers. They also object to financial incentives for states to allow judges to mandate treatment for certain people with serious mental health issues.

Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraDems double down on Nevada Latino vote Clinton makes new push to win the House Dems bullish on Hispanic support, turnout MORE said his party wants to bolster the mental health system to prevent potentially dangerous people from getting their hands on firearms. But he accused the Republicans of yanking Democratic provisions out of the Murphy bill, suggesting the Republicans should expect little help from his party in passing the bill.

"That bill ... has become, unfortunately, a partisan bill,” the California Democrat told reporters Tuesday.

He did not specify which specific provisions the Democrats oppose.

On the gun-reform front, the Democrats appear poised to focus on legislation that would block those on the government's terrorist watch-list from buying or owning firearms — a prohibition not currently in place.

Mike Lillis and Peter Sullivan contributed to this report.