Democrats Walk Out of Tense Hearing on Contraception (Video)

After a clash over the exclusion of women from a panel on birth control, three representatives march out in boycott.

Three Democrats stalked out of a hearing on Capitol Hill today over disagreements about the slant and composition of a hearing on birth control and religion. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, chaired by Republican Darrell Issa, is titled "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?" Democrats were not pleased with the hearing nor with the panel, which included a Catholic bishop, a rabbi, a minister from the conservative Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, and two professors, but no women and no progressives.

The liberal blog Think Progress snagged the video above, which shows Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings and Carolyn Maloney taking Issa to task, albeit in relatively calm tones; Cummings complained not only that there were no women, but that there were no representatives of religious groups that had applauded the Obama administration's mandate that employer provide contraception (labeled as preventative care) or else a compromise reached last week, in which religious employers could opt out of providing birth control, putting the onus on insurers. But things blew up when Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegate for Washington, D.C., starting speaking and clashed with Issa directly. Shortly thereafter, The Huffington Post reports, Cummings, Norton, and Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat stalked out of the hearing. Outside, Norton decried Issa as running the committee like an "autocratic regime."

In his opening statement, Issa mentioned that visiting students were attending the hearing. The visitors certainly got an education in the current state of the U.S. Congress.

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David A. Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers political and global news. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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