Analysis

House Panel votes to hold StemExpress in contempt of Congress

stem-express

It sounded more like a parliamentary temper tantrum than a congressional business meeting. Despite Democrats’ contentious opposition, the House Select Panel on Infant Lives voted to hold the fetal tissue procurement company, StemExpress, and its owner Cate Dyer, in contempt of Congress for their failure to comply with Congressional subpoenas. The recommendation now goes to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for a vote.

The vote came after the Democratic opposition on the subcommittee tried every tactic it could to stonewall the process–then walked out of the proceedings in protest. Because a quorum was present, Republicans were able to pass the resolution 8-0.

The hour-long business meeting was an exercise in contention as Chair Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee) convened the meeting and heard opening statements. The Democratic members lambasted Blackburn, the committee, and even Live Action News for its coverage of the news involving fetal tissue research.

Hearing begins at 1:18:45

Rep. Janice Schakowsky (Illinois), who is a ranking member of the committee launched an attack against the committee’s work investigating the fetal tissue industry. She insisted that the investigation and released documents have caused the need for increased security at the University of New Mexico, criticizing Blackburn for releasing information about doctors at the university. Blackburn had originally included a resolution to release the deposition of Dr. Eve Espey at the University of New Mexico. Schakowsky said this harmed Espey in danger because of threats and the need for increased security. Schakowsky further noted the Panel’s earlier release of documents related to the university were then followed by a Live Action News story which also released information they didn’t want out. Schakowsky failed to note that the information included in the Live Action News story was all available on public websites. Despite this, however, Schakowsky called Wednesday’s meeting “illegal” and a “political sideshow.” She also defended StemExpress, and insisted that it had complied with the subpoenas of the Panel and any omitted information wasn’t a lack of compliance.

However, Rep. Sean Duffy (Wisconsin) noted that StemExpress did not comply with the subpoenas because, quite simply, it had not provided all the information requested by the congressional panel. He said, “What’s important is we get what we ask for not what you want to give us.” Blackburn said, “a subpoena is not a suggestion,”

But the Panel’s Democrats continued to rail against Chair Blackburn and the other Republicans.

Rep. Jackie Speier (California), said the “so-called Panel on Infant Lives spread its reign of terror” in its investigation. And Rep. Diana DeGette (Colorado) said the Panel’s investigation was  “an attempt to harass biotech companies and women who want to exercise their right to choose.”

The most common theme from the Democrats in Wednesday’s meeting was to shift the issue to accuse Republicans of hindering lifesaving medical research. In particular, the Democrats focused on the need to use fetal tissue to find a cure for the Zika virus. Democrats insisted by not focusing on the benefits of fetal cell research and helping further it, Republicans were hurting society. The Democrats failed to note that a promising cure for a virus in the Zika family has been discovered–without the use of fetal tissue. In March, the announcement of “an experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health, showed conclusive evidence of efficacy,” as Live Action News reported then. Still, Democrats insisted that the Panel’s work was hindering important medical research such as discovering a Zika cure.

Schakowsky concluded her statements to the committee, saying:

From the outset, this investigation has been a dangerous partisan witch-hunt. I will continue to oppose pursuit of criminal contempt, and I will continue to fight to end this investigation and undo the damage to the doctors, scientists, and the lifesaving work they perform.

Other Democrats expressed similar rhetoric, employing words and phrases such as “witch-hunt” and “kangaroo court.”  They continued to defend the use of fetal tissue in medical research, ignoring the issue at hand–that StemExpress and Dyer had attempted to elude Congressional subpoenas.

When the parliamentary tantrums failed, the Democrats had a solution: Walk out. The Republican majority was enough to pass the resolution, despite the theatrics, and the resolution will now move to the Energy and Commerce Committee for a full vote.

Blackburn posted on her Facebook page after the meeting, reminding those following the story that ultimately, there is one issue at hand in the contempt vote: StemExpress failed to comply with congressional subpoenas.

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For more information on StemExpress’ involvement in the fetal parts business, see this Live Action News article or watch the video below or this one that includes a longer discussion with Cate Dyer, head StemExpress:

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