Dems Walk Out of House Hearing Intended to Hold Fetal Tissue Procurement Company in Contempt of Congress

By Lauretta Brown | September 22, 2016 | 8:11am EDT
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) chairs the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. Democrats walked out of a panel hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (AP File Photo)

( –  Angry Democrats on Wednesday walked out of a House hearing involving StemExpress, the Placerville, Calif., company that acted as a middleman between Planned Parenthood abortion clinics and research institutions looking for aborted baby parts.

The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives advanced a resolution to hold StemExpress in contempt of Congress for its failure to comply with a Congressional subpoena seeking some of the company’s accounting statements. Democrat panel members refused to participate in the vote, instead walking out of the room.

Democrats argued throughout the hearing that the panel did not have the legal authority under House rules to hold StemExpress in contempt of Congress.

Panel Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) responded that “nothing in the resolution or the House rules precludes this panel or a subcommittee from marking up a report on contempt for the purpose of forwarding it for consideration by a full committee or the House, as appropriate.”

"We refuse to sanction or endorse this exercise by continuing to participate," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the ranking Democrat on the panel.

Schakowsky accused the panel of being a “political sideshow with devastating consequences for anyone who cares about women’s healthcare or lifesaving medical research.”

StemExpress cut ties with Planned Parenthood in August 2015, following the outcry over undercover investigative videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress that showed Planned Parenthood officials putting prices on the body parts of aborted babies.

Planned Parenthood said those videos were edited to mislead. It also has refused to say how much money it received from Stem Express in exchange for harvesting fetal tissue.

Following the hearing, Blackburn emphasized to reporters that “when we looked at the pricing of fetal tissue, every witness, Democrat and Republican, said you need to get the accounting and banking records of the entities. They all agreed that the entities needed to come forward with that to make certain that no one is in violation of the Waxman Amendment that was on the 1993 NIH Re-authorization.”

 “The committee and our work will continue,” she said, “and I am sorry that they chose drama over the heavy lift today. I would like to have them working with us.”   

Another panel member, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), told reporters “This is about the investigation in regard to the sale and profit of infant body parts, that’s what the investigation is about and we have had a number of different businesses who we have subpoenaed comply with those subpoenas, fully and completely. StemExpress has refused to fully comply.

“What I think is important is they refuse to provide documentation in regard to their accounting and banking record so the question becomes: what are they hiding in their bank records?” Duffy asked. “What payments have they received that they don’t want us to see? And why are Democrats siding with StemExpress?”

“Why aren’t Democrats joining us in that effort to uphold American law and do an investigation? I think it’s sad that they would stand up and storm out and try to make this about something that it is not. I think it’s a sad day for American democracy,” Duffy said.

“This is about a for-profit company hiding records,” Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) said. “What do they have to hide?”

“Look this is a process,” Harris said. “There is a majority party and a minority party and the minority party when they don’t like the result that they’re going to get, they just walk out?”

“I don’t recall that happening when the minority was the other party, so I don’t understand what’s going on,” Harris concluded.

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