WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Republican congresswoman said Monday on the House floor that she believes Americans have more to fear from the Democrats' health care bill "than we do from any terrorist right now in any country."
Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said people in her home district tell her they are frightened of the health care bill expected to be debated by the House as soon as this week.
"I share that fear, and I believe they should be fearful," Foxx said, "And I believe the greatest fear that we all should have to our freedom comes from this room - this very room - and what may happen later this week in terms of a tax increase bill masquerading as a health care bill.
"I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country."
The Democratic National Committee immediately criticized Foxx, calling her comments "outrageous" and comparing them to Sarah Palin's previous warning about death panels in regard to a Democratic proposal for voluntary counseling on living wills and other end-of-life decisions.
"Sadly, these inexplicable comments represent what is now the mainstream of a Republican Party that has been hijacked by an extremist far right-wing faction that craves ideological purity, will purge dissent, and offer nothing but reactionary opposition to progress," DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said in a statement.
Aaron Groen, a spokesman for Foxx, said she was speaking "off the cuff" in her comments in the House chamber.
At a later news conference, House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio responded to a question about Foxx's remarks by saying that "members are entitled to their opinions."
When pressed, Boehner shrugged, then turned to House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence, R-Indiana, and said: "This is when they get the Boehner shrug."
Pence later told CNN he had no comment on Foxx's "particular turn of phrase, but I will say, around Indiana, out around this country, people are very, very concerned about an effort to launch a new government run insurance plan."
"I think that people in Washington sometimes don't always get how concerned the American people are about borrowing and spending and the deficits," Pence said. "It is generating strong emotions. Members of Congress are not immune from those strong emotions, but I have to say that the people's House ought to resonate with what's happening in the hearts and minds of the American people."
–CNN's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this story.