* This post has been updated.
Democrats seem to be having a trouble prioritizing as the 2014 midterm cycle heats up. Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Iowa and U.S. Senate candidate, is a perfect example. Over a period of two years, he decided to skip 75% of committee meetings that directly dealt with veterans’ health care. In one instance, Braley’s absence on the committee was due to him attending three fundraisers for his campaign. (via Des Moines Register):
Over a two-year period, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley missed 75 percent of meetings for a committee that provides oversight over the Veterans Administration, including one meeting on a day he attended three fundraisers for his own campaign.
A few months later, news reports exposed systemic problems in patient care that have since resulted in the resignation head of the federal department of veterans affairs.
Republicans argue that Braley, who missed 15 of the 20 Veterans' Affairs Committee meetings in 2011 and 2012, has shown a lack of commitment to conditions within the health care system for veterans.
Democrats who back Braley, a trial lawyer and seven-year congressman who is now running for U.S. Senate, say he has been an outspoken voice for veterans and it's wrong for his GOP rival, Joni Ernst, to "try to inject partisan politics into veterans issues." He missed the veterans affairs meeting on the day of the three fundraisers because he went to another congressional hearing, aides said.
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.
On the same day, Braley had three fundraisers on his schedule for his re-election to the U.S. House, records from the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation show. He attended all three, campaign aides confirmed to The Des Moines Register.
Well, that’s embarrassing. Although, one could argue that President Obama gets the failing grade in optics for traveling to various fundraisers as Israeli troops enter Gaza, Ukrainian separatists allegedly having the ability to down commercial airliners, and the various scandals, namely the ones centered on the IRS and Veterans Affairs (VA), that continue to plague his administration.
On the day of his absence, Braley attended a 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. $2,500 breakfast at Johnny’s Half Shell, a $1,000 per person fundraiser at a law firm at noon, and a 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. $2,500 per person fundraiser on K Street, according to the Register.
At the same time, veterans were dying, or lingered in anguish on those infamous VA wait-lists.
UPDATE: Braley Campaign responded to the piece by Jennifer Jacobs of Des Moines Register on Braley's fundraisers and missing 75% of committee hearings dealing with veterans' health care:
Braley campaign spokesman Jeff Giertz said fundraisers Braley scheduled on Sept. 20 didn't conflict with the VA hearings.
In fact, at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 20, a subcommittee on economic opportunities for veterans met and Braley attended most of the hearing. He left early to attend a 3 p.m. classified briefing for U.S. House members with then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi.
Asked why Braley missed 75 percent of his Veterans Affairs Committee meetings in 2011 and 2012, Giertz said that in many cases, "there were conflicting hearings, classified briefings, or other responsibilities that drew Bruce away."