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Blackburn Abortion Investigation Set for Congressional Windfall

Christine Grimaldi

All told, the investigation is well on its way to totaling $790,000, using nearly 80 percent of the House’s available supplemental funding.

Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives panel investigating questionable reproductive health-care allegations have sought an additional $490,000 in funding—even as Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) publicly indicated that their activities may halt by the end of the year.

Congressional documents reveal that panel Republicans requested the money from the Committee on House Administration, which sets aside $500,000 per session of Congress to supplement operating budgets.

​A congressional aide told ​ Rewire that the request has been approved.​

The panel last year received $300,000, which followed the House’s informal two-thirds/one-third funding split between the majority and minority parties, from the Administration Committee’s coffers. All told, the investigation is well on its way to totaling $790,000, using nearly 80 percent of the House’s available supplemental funding.

House rules stipulate that standing subcommittees draw funding from the budget of the full committee with jurisdiction and pursue additional means as needs arise. The funding streams are murkier in the case of the select panel, a temporary entity under the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It’s unclear how much money, if any, Energy and Commerce Committee chair Fred Upton (R-MI) has directed from his budget to the select panel.

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Upton’s spokespeople did not respond to questions from Rewire about full committee financial support for the ad hoc panel by publication time.

Administration Committee Democrats protested the original funding request and raised similar objections again this time, to no avail. The current action marks the second time the committee “decided without a public hearing or a proper vote to pay for the political attack on Planned Parenthood,” they said in a statement accompanying a trove of appeals to their Republican counterparts on the committee to stop the transfer.

Blackburn’s select panel spokesperson in an email to Rewire deferred all funding questions to the Administration Committee, including what Republicans intend to do with their share and whether their request marks an expansion of the investigation despite the limited number of days that Congress will be in session for the remainder of the year.

In a statement shared via panel spokesperson, Blackburn cited allegations she often makes about abortion clinics and tissue procurement companies trafficking in “baby body parts.” She also repeated a similar claim against the University of New Mexico, the subject of her recent criminal referral to the state’s attorney general.

“These disturbing findings are exactly why this investigation is warranted and we will continue to follow the facts in order to complete our report to Congress by the end of the year,” she said.

Blackburn’s reference to the end of the year signals that there’s an end in sight. The resolution creating the panel only specifies that activities will come to an end 30 days after filing a final report. An Upton spokesperson previously referenced the panel’s “one-year term” when Rewire reported on past fetal tissue attacks in Congress.

In any event, Blackburn must act before the resolution expires with the close of the 114th Congress in 2016. The House would have to vote next year, in the 115th Congress, to extend the current investigation.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), the select panel’s ranking member, condemned the latest funding request and the overall investigation.

“This has not been—nor will it ever be—a fact-based investigation,” Schakowsky said in a statement. “Instead the Panel is being run as a taxpayer-funded arm of anti-abortion groups, in pursuit of a partisan, anti-science, and anti-health care agenda. Enough is enough.”

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