House Democratic leaders have become fond of the talking point that the GOP is itching for a government shutdown.
House Democrats on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee are no exception. In a seven-page letter — with footnotes — ranking member Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland was joined by every committee Democrat in telling Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, of their suspicions of the rationale behind a plan to hold a hearing on the Planned Parenthood controversy on Sept. 29, one day before Congress must pass legislation to avert a shutdown.
"Based on numerous press reports over the past several weeks, this appears to be part of a broader power struggle to unseat House Speaker John Boehner, led by an extreme wing of the Republican Party that is using this issue to force a government shutdown unless the Speaker bows to their demands," the lawmakers wrote in their Monday letter.
The Democrats go on to argue there's no way around the fact that more than half the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus sit on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The Freedom Caucus, a conservative contingent of nearly 40 House Republicans, has already taken a formal position opposing any continuing resolution that does not defund Planned Parenthood, and some of its members are eyeing a procedural maneuver to soon force a floor vote on whether Boehner can remain speaker.
They point out Chaffetz has even teamed up with Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, to investigate whether the health organization has skirted or violated federal laws regarding the harvesting of fetal tissues. The abortion provider has been under fire since the release of a series of undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials talking about procedures during abortions for procuring medical research specimens.
Jordan also heads the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Healthcare, Benefits and Administrative Rules.
Democrats said they want to see David Daleiden, the anti-abortion activist who orchestrated the sting video operation, called to testify, otherwise the "one-sided attack against Planned Parenthood ... disregards the questionable activities of Mr. Daleiden merely to help the House Freedom Caucus shut down the government and potentially oust Speaker Boehner."
Republicans have not yet formally announced the hearing date or invited witnesses, but committee Democrats were getting out ahead of the news, working with information they received directly from the majority staff.
Chaffetz won the gavel at the start of the 114th Congress in part by promising to reduce the partisan bickering that marked the tenure of his predecessor, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Chaffetz's committee spokeswoman declined to comment on the Democrats' letter and its insinuations.