The House has voted to create a special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood in the wake of GOP outcry about the group’s handling of tissue from aborted fetuses. The vote was 242 to 184, with two Democrats voting in favor and one Republican voting against.
To date, House Republicans have uncovered no evidence of actual wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood, but that doesn't mean they're done looking for proof to justify the conclusions they've already drawn.
This is not a measure that will require Senate approval or President Obama's signature. On the contrary, the House GOP will now move forward with the plan to create a 13-member panel to scrutinize the health care organization, privately funded abortions, and the donation of fetal tissue to medical researchers.
Not surprisingly, congressional Democrats have a hunch this is yet another brazenly partisan, taxpayer-funded election exercise. "Here we go again," Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) told the Associated Press. "Planned Parenthood is the new Benghazi."
Before anyone on the right suggests Frankel is being unfair, let's not forget that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has already suggested he intends to turn Planned Parenthood into the next Benghazi.
The particular legislative details will probably strike most as boring, inside-baseball minutiae, but it's worth appreciating the ways in which Republicans are playing fast and loose with the process.
You may have heard, for example, about the anti-Planned Parenthood panel being a "select committee" -- which seems unusual given that select committees are generally reserved for extraordinary national events (the JFK assassination, 9/11, Watergate, etc.).
But in this case, GOP leaders created a select subcommittee to go after Planned Parenthood, putting all of this under the purview of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In theory, that means the Energy and Commerce Committee would be responsible for overseeing the investigations, and the subcommittee's members would come exclusively from the Committee's existing membership, but right-wing groups outside Congress told GOP leaders this wasn't good enough.
As a result, as Roll Call reported this morning, the Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee will include members who have nothing to do with the Energy and Commerce panel -- but who are known for their staunch opposition to reproductive rights and whose names will be vetted through outside organizations.
A congressional source confirmed to me this week that there is no modern precedent for these bizarre tactics.
The full membership list for the panel -- which will have its own subpoena power, but not its own budget -- may be available as early as tomorrow. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) will likely be the chair, and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who opposes abortion rights but who isn't considered sufficiently right-wing by GOP allies, will likely be excluded.
The Roll Call piece added, "House Republicans insist their new committee to investigate Planned Parenthood won’t be political."
Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this report.