House panel votes to hold fetal tissue company in contempt

House panel votes to hold fetal tissue company in contempt
© Greg Nash

The House committee set up to investigate Planned Parenthood on Wednesday voted to recommend holding a fetal tissue procurement company in contempt after Democrats walked out of the session in protest.

The panel voted to advance a resolution holding Stem Express in contempt for failing to provide all of the documents it was required to turn over under a congressional subpoena.

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Republicans said they were looking for accounting records from the company to make sure that it is not involved in the sale of fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal.

“A subpoena is not a suggestion,” said Chairman Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTennessee New Members 2019 McConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip Rick Scott appears with GOP senators, ignores voter fraud question as recount continues MORE (R-Tenn.). “It is a lawful order and must be complied with.”

Democrats walked out of the committee session before the final vote after Republicans voted down two of their motions to adjourn. Democrats said the committee was violating House rules by voting to hold the company in contempt. 

Democrats argued that the panel has been granted no power to hold anyone in contempt, given that it is technically a subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee and not a full panel. 

Blackburn responded that the resolution will be sent to the full committee and “others will decide how it moves from there.”

There was also a larger argument from Democrats, who have argued throughout the committee’s investigation that it is simply a political exercise. They said the committee is stifling medical research that relies on fetal tissue by intimidating researchers. 

“Today’s markup is an unauthorized, dangerous, and unjustifiable escalation of Chair Blackburn’s partisan attack on healthcare and life-saving research,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), the panel’s top Democrat. 

Democrats argued that Stem Express has been cooperating, already turning over more than 1,000 pages of documents, and had offered to provide staff members to brief the committee. 

Republicans, though, said they needed all documents they subpoenaed, not just some.  

“What is in the banking and accounting records that is so secretive that they won’t comply with a congressional, lawful subpoena?” Rep. Sean DuffySean Patrick DuffyHouse votes to remove protections for gray wolves Here's how politicians celebrated Halloween Fox contributor: Warren's ancestors 'rounded up Cherokees for the Trail of Tears' MORE (R-Wis.) said.