Republicans Can't Pick a Leader, but They Can Vote to Approve New Planned Parenthood Witchhunt

The U.S. House voted Wednesday to create a select committee to investigate abortion practices and fetal tissue donation, a move that Democrats say is a politically motivated attack on Planned Parenthood.

The House voted 242-184 on a resolution to create the new select committee, which will operate as a 14-member panel under the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Democrats argue that the panel will be similar to the select committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks, which has existed for more than a year and cost $5 million. That committee came under new scrutiny recently when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested that the panel was designed to hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential polling numbers.

McCarthy’s credibility seems to have been so damaged by these remarks that he abruptly dropped out of the race for Speaker of the House on Thursday.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said Tuesday that McCarthy “accidentally told the truth” about the Benghazi panel—that it was created for “politics, not governance.”

“That is against our oath of office, and it is a disgrace,” Slaughter said. “Congressman McCarthy was clear—select committees have been used for purely political purposes. And this new select committee on Planned Parenthood will be no different.”

“I can’t imagine anything that’s more of a waste of time,” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said on Tuesday. Pallone harshly criticized Republicans for wasting time and resources to create “another bureaucracy,” which their party supposedly loathes, to do work that is being done by several other committees that have not found any evidence that Planned Parenthood did anything wrong.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is expected to chair the committee. She said Tuesday that the select committee was necessary because of the “serious questions” raised by a series of deceptively edited videos taken by an anti-choice front group, and that the new committee would put the investigations by three other House committees “under one umbrella.”

Democrats argued that the committee’s chair will have unprecedented unilateral subpoena powers, and that that new committee could subsume the rights of the other committees that are already investigating the issue.

Republican-led hearings in the House Judiciary, Energy and Commerce, and Oversight and Government Reform committees have been widely criticized for their partisan nature and their focus on abortion access and procedures, rather than any hard evidence of whether Planned Parenthood broke the law.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who chairs the Oversight committee, came under fire for using an obviously misleading chart about Planned Parenthood’s medical services. He told CNN that he wasn’t “suggesting that [Planned Parenthood] broke the law,” a comment that prompted Democrats and pro-choice advocates to ask why Chaffetz was holding hearings in the first place.

Slaughter also called out Chaffetz on Wednesday for refusing to let the committee’s Democrats have copies of what could be the full, unedited Planned Parenthood attack videos.

The resolution to create the select committee does not specifically mention Planned Parenthood, but it seems clearly designed to examine the organization—as well as abortion in general.

It calls for the investigation of six issues:

(1) medical procedures and business practices used by entities involved in fetal tissue procurement;

(2) any other relevant matters with respect to fetal tissue procurement;

(3) federal funding and support for abortion providers;

(4) the practices of providers of second and third trimester abortions, including partial birth abortion and procedures that may lead to a child born alive as a result of an attempted abortion;

(5) medical procedures for the care of a child born alive as a result of an attempted abortion; and

(6) any changes in law or regulation necessary as a result of any findings made under this subsection.

Republicans, including Blackburn, have suggested—without credible evidence—that Planned Parenthood regularly performs “partial birth” abortion, and even kills viable “born alive” infants after attempted abortion. Blackburn deflected accusations of partisanship by noting that Planned Parenthood isn’t specifically mentioned in the resolution.

Pallone countered that the broad scope of the committee makes him worry about an ideological attack on a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion.

“The way [Blackburn] reads this thing, it sounds to me like we’re going to investigate whether we should even be having abortions,” Pallone said.

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