DEMS: GOP CHAIR HIDING FULL PLANNED PARENTHOOD FOOTAGE: Top House Democrats are accusing the chairman of the House Oversight Committee of refusing to share the unedited footage from the recent undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood.
“Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz has in his possession right now, a computer hard drive that contains videos produced by David Daleiden, the head of the group that tried to entrap Planned Parenthood,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) declared from the House floor on Wednesday, interrupting the chamber’s debate on legislation expanding the investigation into Planned Parenthood.
Chaffetz, who is running for House Speaker, received a copy of the videos on Sept. 25, and has since declined to share a copy with the Democrats, according to a Democratic committee aide.
Instead, Chaffetz has said he will set up a “viewing room” for Democratic members and staff to view the videos. Republicans have not yet hosted a screening, the aide said, calling the move a “direct violation” of the Democrats’ recent subpoena of Daleiden’s unedited footage. Read more here.
HOUSE VOTES TO EXPAND PLANNED PARENTHOOD PROBE: 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.
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 expand 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. Read more here.
PELOSI PLAYS BLAME-GAME WITH BOEHNER ON MEDICARE CUTS: Top Democrats are accusing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) of stalling a deal that would stave off massive increases in Medicare premiums for some beneficiaries next year.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday that she has been trying to work out a compromise with Boehner’s office to avoid Medicare cuts that would result in premium hikes as high as 50 percent. But with just two legislative days left until a critical deadline, Pelosi suggested that those talks have stalled.
“For the past month, on a regular basis, we have been reaching out to Republicans to tell them the deadline is racing toward us,” Pelosi said at a briefing with a half dozen other Democrats. “We thought we were close to a solution, but when that didn’t happen, we had to go public.”
Under budget rules, Congress has until Oct. 15 to limit the premium hikes — giving lawmakers only two legislative days to pass a bill before the Columbus Day recess.
“Essentially, the ball is in the court of the Speaker,” Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in an interview after the briefing. Read more here.
MURPHY SEES MOMENTUM FOR MENTAL HEALTH PACKAGE: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) believes his bipartisan mental health reform bill is picking up momentum and said that it will get a hearing later this month in the Senate health committee.
Murphy has introduced the bill with Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy (La.), and it is intended as companion legislation to a House bill championed by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.).
“We feel like with a hearing scheduled in the HELP committee later this month, the first hearing in the HELP committee on mental health in three years, and that’s amazing to think about, that we’re poised to move this bill,” Sen. Murphy said at a forum hosted by National Journal on Wednesday.
Rep. Murphy has cast his bill as a response to mass shootings. However, reflecting the sharp divide on gun control measures between the parties, Sen. Murphy cautioned that mental health is not enough to stop the violence.
“We shouldn’t fool ourselves that we are going to cure the nation’s epidemic of gun violence by fixing a broken mental health system,” he said. Read more here.
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Planned Parenthood.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a markup for several bills to combat drug abuse.
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