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Washington • Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Tuesday argued that Planned Parenthood raises enough private donations that it doesn't need federal funds.
In a somewhat tense congressional hearing the first with the head of Planned Parenthood testifying Chaffetz noted that the organization had $127 million in revenue over expenses in a recent fiscal year, and even shipped money overseas for services.
"This is an organization that doesn't need federal subsidy," said Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "In the past three years, they spent more than $67 million on fundraising. They're pretty good at it. That's partly my point. They're pretty good at fundraising. They don't necessarily need taxpayer dollars to go pay for it."
Chaffetz convened the hearing amid an ongoing battle over federal dollars going to the national nonprofit group, which has been under fire after edited videos were released showing some of its officials talking about reimbursements for providing fetal tissue from abortions for research.
Federal law prohibits the sale of such tissue but does allow an organization to recoup expenses.
Chaffetz repeatedly interrupted Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards while quizzing her, with the head of the group pleading for time to fully answer questions.
When asked about Planned Parenthood money spent in foreign countries, Richards tried to explain, "Congressman, let me "
"No, no, no," Chaffetz interrupted. "We don't have time for a narrative. I just want to know yes or no?"
Richards explained that private dollars are given as grants to groups working in Africa and Latin America.
While Chaffetz noted several times that the hearing was not focused on the videos in question, they dominated much of the conversation during Tuesday's hearing.
Chaffetz has subpoenaed the raw video filmed by an anti-abortion group, but a restraining order issued by a federal judge in California has halted its release.
"There is more to this story," Chaffetz said. "There is more that needs to come out."
The fight over Planned Parenthood's federal funding about $528 million annually had set up the possibility of a government shutdown, with some conservatives vowing to not pass a budget bill with such money included and Democrats promising the opposite.
That scenario is now less likely with Speaker John Boehner's resignation, though, the showdown over the funding is expected to come up again when the stopgap bill the House and Senate are trying to pass expires in December.
Democrats on Tuesday defended Planned Parenthood and said the GOP majority was on a witch hunt.
"There's no credible evidence before this committee that any Planned Parenthood employee agreed to any proposal to sell fetal tissue for profit in violation of the law," said the committee's ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland. "Republicans keep making this claim over and over again, but that does not make it true."
Chaffetz was critical of the organization spending $32 million overseas when it's demanding to keep its federal subsidy.
"They're so flush with cash, they started sending money overseas," Chaffetz said. "We don't need Planned Parenthood foreign aid, but that's what we got, and their desire for more of taxpayer dollars is just insatiable."
Richards later explained that Planned Parenthood had organizations in all 50 states and also programs in Africa and Latin America focused on family planning.
She said the group was highly accountable and blasted the edited videos.
"This is just some of the most recent in a long line of discredited attacks, the 10th over the last 15 years," she said. "The latest smear campaign is based on efforts by our opponents to entrap our doctors and clinicians into breaking the law, and once again, our opponents failed."
Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, tried to corner Richards on why the government should help Planned Parenthood when there are other clinics that provide low-cost or subsidized health care.
"You can't say that Planned Parenthood is, like, the only place that is available," Love told her.
"No, but there obviously it's a place that 2.7 million patients choose voluntarily to come to every year," Richards replied.
A judge on Tuesday blocked an order issued by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to cut off federal money going to Planned Parenthood in the state after the release of secretly recorded videos by a California anti-abortion group.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said that the "relentless campaign" by the right flank of the GOP against Planned Parenthood was a ruse to unseat Boehner, who on Friday resigned his seat, effective Thursday.
"Make no mistake despite what we hear from the other side, Republicans are doubling down on their war against women," Maloney said.