Rep. Bruce Braley, the Iowa Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, missed three quarters of committee hearings concerning oversight of the Veterans Affairs administration in 2011 and 2012, including one, the Des Moines Register reports, on the same day Braley attended three fundraisers.
The Register's Jennifer Jacobs notes that Republicans are criticizing Braley for missing the meetings during a time when widespread abuses at VA-run hospitals were occuring, delaying care for veterans. The Braley campaign has responded that the four-term congressman was attending a separate committee hearing on the day of the three fundraisers. Jacobs notes that there's little evidence Braley was active or even present for that hearing:
At 10:19 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2012, the committee held a hearing on a backlog of disability claims and reports of problems with mental health care and stewardship of VA funding, congressional records show. The roll call shows Braley didn't attend.
Braley's aides said he skipped it to attend a 9:36 a.m. Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting on the "Fast and Furious" gun trafficking scandal. The congressional record marked Braley "present," but reveals that he offered no testimony during the three-hour hearing, which ran until 12:45 p.m.
Video caught no sight of Braley. His seat isn't always visible, but the multiple times it's within camera view during the window the Veterans Affairs committee was in session (10:19 a.m. to 11:54 a.m.), Braley wasn't seated, a Register review of C-SPAN 3 and committee footage found.
Members of Congress can check in as "present" at a hearing, stay for a brief time – sometimes to ask a question – and then leave. Braley didn't ask a question, the transcript shows.
Read the rest of Jacobs's detailed report here.
Braley is facing Republican state senator Joni Ernst in the general election for retiring Democrat Tom Harkin's Senate seat. Ernst is also a war veteran who still serves as an officer in the Iowa Army National Guard.
Polls show the race is in a virtual tie.