House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced that she and members of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee will hold their own hearing Thursday on the “issue of women’s health.”
Last week the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by its chairman, Darrell Issa, R-Calif., held a hearing into the controversial rule from the Obama administration requiring all employers, including religious-affiliated institutions, to offer health insurance plans that cover birth control free of cost to women.
Democrats have seized on the fact that a panel of witnesses at that hearing was limited to five clergymen and no women. They tried to get Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke on the panel, but Issa rejected their request, and bickering ensued.
Pelosi and Democrats hope to let the public hear what Fluke would have said. According to their announcement about the 10 a.m. Thursday hearing, she will be their sole witness.
But Pelosi’s office also is asserting that Republicans may be trying to hamper televised coverage of this event.
In a note to reporters on Thursday, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the House Administration Committee, chaired by Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., “has apparently reversed existing policy and denied a request from the Democratic leadership for the House Recording Studio to cover this event and provide video publicly so all Americans can finally hear Ms. Fluke.”
If Lungren has reversed this policy, wrote Hammill, “he has done so in secret and not consulted with [committee] Democrats. This leaves us only to think that the House Republican leadership is acting out yet again to silence women on the topic of women’s health.”
But a committee aide to Lungren, Salley Wood, disputed Hammill's claim that there has been any such reversal of policy regarding taping and broadcasting of official events requested by the Speaker, Majority Leader, Minority Leader, and other officers of the House.
Wood also flatly disputed Hammill's claim that the committee, while under Democratic control in July 2008, lifted restrictions on the use of the studio to accommodate such leadership requests. In fact, she produced a document on which then-Chairman Robert Brady, D-Pa., appears to explicity deny such a request to lift the restrictions. But she and other officials also acknowledge the restrictions have not always been tightly carried out.
"This policy has been in place for several years, it has been strictly enforced for several months. As a result, requests from both sides of the aisle have been denied," added Dan Weiser, communications Director for the House's Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, in a statement.
But Hammill said that since the beginning of 2011, the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee has held eight hearings on various topics and that the recording studio had always covered these hearings unless pre-booked for something else.
“This is the first time the Democratic leadership has been told that the [recording studio] cannot cover this hearing because it is a hearing of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee," Hammill said.
When Weiser was pressed as to why, as he says, the restriction policy has been enforced for only several months, he said, "We don't have the resources to do every request. The tighter enforcement means uniform enforcement which is fair to everyone."