Paul wants probe in wake of Planned Parenthood videos

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate Trump-Graham relationship tested by week of public sparring Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe MORE (R-Ky.) wants a government watchdog to investigate all fetal tissue research supported by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the wake of a string of controversial videos targeting Planned Parenthood.

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Thirty-four Republican senators signed on to the 2016 GOP presidential candidate’s letter to HSS Inspector General Daniel Levinson on Tuesday, writing that the recent allegations that Planned Parenthood mishandled aborted fetal tissue raises "serious concerns about potential violations of federal law prohibiting the transfer of fetal tissue for valuable consideration."

"The videos not only raise questions about Planned Parenthood’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations, but also highlight potentially significant problems with HHS’s oversight of practices in this market in general," they added.

The 35 senators want Levinson to launch an audit to determine what third-party groups paid for fetal tissue used in projects funded by HHS; how they determine if they are complying with federal law; and how HHS, the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) verify that the groups aren't violating the law.

They also want to know if HHS knows of any groups breaking federal law in connection with outside group research funded by the government, and how HHS has ensured previous fetal tissue transplant research done by outside groups complies with federal regulations.

Tuesday's letter isn't the first time Republican senators have pressed the department for details on its oversight of fetal tissue research. Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) pressed HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell for its oversight policies during a letter sent late last month.

Nearly half of the Senate, including Paul, sent a letter to the department earlier this year in the wake of the Planned Parenthood videos, raising concerns about possible violations of federal law.

The senators said Tuesday that they received an "unacceptable response," raising concerns that the "department does not appear to have conducted any internal investigation of their own research practices or any audits or other oversight of their contractors, suppliers, and grantees with regard to their compliance with fetal tissue research laws and instead relied on assertions of compliance."

Republican Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), John Cornyn (Texas), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Steve Daines (Mont.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Deb Fischer (Neb.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Jerry Moran (Kansas), David Perdue (Ga.), Rob Portman (Ohio), James Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Benjamin Sasse (Neb.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Tim Scott (S.C.), John Thune (S.D.), David Vitter (La.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.) signed on to Paul's letter.

Read Rand Paul letter