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House creates panel to investigate Planned Parenthood

By Sarah Ferris for The Hill

The House voted Wednesday to create a special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood and the handling of aborted fetal tissue, all but ensuring an already-fierce partisan battle will continue into 2016.

In a nearly party-line vote, lawmakers voted 242 to 184 to establish a 13-member committee with broad power to investigate wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood amid allegations that it has tried to profit from the sale of aborted tissue.

Two Democrats voted in favor and one Republican opposed the measure.

The four-page bill does not mention Planned Parenthood by name. Instead, it charges the committee to investigate “fetal tissue procurement,” “federal funding and support for abortion providers” and “born-alive” abortions, generally.

But Republicans were clear that the committee’s work is intended to deepen three existing House committee probes into Planned Parenthood, which began in early August. The committees have held three hearings as part of their investigations, which has prompted Planned Parenthood to turn over at least 20,000 documents, according to Democrats.

"Our investigation has raised many more questions than we've been able to find answers," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who is expected to lead the panel. "We need to have a national conversation about these practices. This is a discussion we cannot shy away from.”

The select committee is the strongest step yet taken by House Republicans who have been riled by a series of undercover videos accusing Planned Parenthood of trafficking fetal parts. Despite investigations in Congress and a dozen states, the group has not faced any criminal charges – prompting widespread criticism from Democrats that the panel is politically driven.  

"Here we go again. Planned Parenthood is the new Benghazi," Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), said from the floor Wednesday. Her counterpart from Florida, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), added that the move “borders on an abuse of power.”

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