Fact Checker: Iowa GOP claims Braley missed most of Veterans' Affairs hearings

Braley seeking U.S. Senate seat against GOP challenger Joni Ernst

Published: July 19 2014 | 6:00 am in Fact Check,

Introduction

In The 112th Congress while serving on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley missed 74 percent of the hearings.

Source of claim

Republican Party of Iowa

Analysis

The Republican Party of Iowa released a statement last week criticizing Braley, D-Waterloo, for missing hearings of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs in 2011 and 2012. Braley is running for U.S. Senate against Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican.

The U.S. Government Printing Office keeps minutes of all Congressional committee hearings, so it was pretty easy to check whether Braley was in attendance at the hearings, which are held mostly in Washington, D.C.

We found Braley attended four of 19 hearings of the full Veterans' Affairs Committee, which has about 25 members. This means he missed 78 percent of those full committee meetings in 2011 and 2012.

However, Braley missed only two of 17 hearings of the Veterans' Affairs Economic Opportunities Subcommittee, of which he was one of eight members. This subcommittee deals with veterans' education, employment, training and housing, as well as readjustment to civilian life.

When you put both the full committee and the subcommittee hearings together, Braley attended about half of the gatherings in the two-year period.

The Braley campaign said its candidate missed a handful of committee hearings because of other commitments, sometimes on veterans' issues. For example, Braley missed the June 6, 2012, hearing because he was on his way back from visiting Taylor Morris, a Navy petty officer from Cedar Falls who lost parts of four limbs in a bomb blast May 3, 2012, in Afghanistan.

Braley also missed hearings on days when he attended other meetings, but on at least one occasion, those obligations were at different times of the day.

Dave Nagle, a Democrat who was in the House of Representatives from 1987 to 1993, said subcommittee meetings are just as important as full committee meetings because that's often where legislation is drafted.

“The subcommittees are the gatekeepers,” said Nagle, now a lawyer in Waterloo. “Anything that is voted on in the full committee comes from the subcommittee.”

Tom Tauke, a Republican who served in the House from 1979 to 1991, said a typical member serves several committees and subcommittees and often has to choose between meetings. Hearings to draft, or “markup,” legislation are the most important, he said.

“With that said, as Woody Allen reportedly noted, 'Ninety percent of life is just showing up,'” said Tauke, who retired last year as an executive vice president for Verizon Communications. “It's hard to do most jobs if you don't show up, and the same is true in Congress.”

Conclusion

If the Republican Party of Iowa had said Braley missed 74 percent of full committee hearings, the claim would be true. In fact, we found Braley missed 78 percent of the full hearings in 2011 and 2012. Spokesman Chad Olsen said the group was referring specifically to full hearings, although the statement was vague, perhaps intentionally so.

House members work on behalf of vets in both the full committee and subcommittees. When putting together both of these types of Veterans' Affairs hearings, Braley missed 47 percent.

Still, we scored the claim as mostly true because Braley did miss three-quarters of full committee hearings and, even when you add in the subcommittee meetings, wasn't there half the time.

Sources

Iowa GOP's claim about Braley's attendance at VA Committee meetings: http://www.iowagop.org/bruce-braley-raves-about-the-va-despite-skipping-nearly-75-of-his-committee-hearings/

Minutes of Veterans' Affairs Committee meetings 2011-2012: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=CHRG&browsePath=112%2FHOUSE%2FCommittee+on+Veterans%27+Affairs&isCollapsed=false&leafLevelBrowse=false&isDocumentResults=true&ycord=240

Taylor Morris blog post: http://taylormorris.org/bump-on-the-back-of-the-head/


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