At a House committee hearing on Thursday, three angry Democrats stalked out of the room to protest what they saw as an unfair, one-sided appointment of witnesses.
The hearing was lengthily titled, Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience? It was organized in protest of President Barack Obama's proposed compromise on the contraceptive healthcare insurance coverage debate. His solution -- to require insurance companies to pay for contraceptive services when religiously affiliated organizations refuse to do so -- did not appease Republican opponents.
The purpose of Thursday's hearing was not necessarily to encourage a two-sided debate, but rather to air Republican House majority grievances regarding Obama's proposal. It is typical for House committee hearings to include only one minority-nominated panelist, although this has been an issue of contention in recent months.
The conflict arose when the committee refused to include Democrats' suggested panelist: Sandra Fluke, a student at the Georgetown University Law Center and vocal supporter of contraceptive coverage.
A spokesperson for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the committee chairman who was responsible for rejecting Fluke, argued that this was not a partisan move but rather a response to Democrats' failure follow the established schedule for nominating panelists. It is true that the original minority panelist was Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Fluke was later chosen instead of Lynn -- apparently too late.
But the Democrats who walked out had their own ideas about Issa's motivations. They noted that the panel consisted only of conservative men, and that House Republicans were organizing an absurd event: a hearing on women's health issues without any women's input. According to the Huffington Post, the three committee members who walked out were Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.,, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.
I look at this panel, and I don't see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventative health care services, including family planning, said Maloney before walking out of the hearing. Where are the women?
The three Democrats failed to mention that although the first panel was all male, the second panel did include two women. These women, however, did not contribute much to diversity of opinion; both side with House Republicans and oppose Obama's compromise.