The problem with the recent reports on Republicans failing to show up for congressional hearings is that they’re the equivalent of a ticky-tack foul in sports: it matters, but only in an inconsequential way. Sure, it’s annoying that Republicans made committee attendance a key part of their 2014 campaign message, but at the end of the day, it’s tough to get worked up over this.
But lawmakers who specifically call for a hearing, requesting certain information, and then fail to show up, that’s a very different kind of story. Andrew Kaczynski had this interesting piece yesterday.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is expected to announce that he is running for president Monday, skipped a series of hearings in the aftermath of Osama Bin Laden’s death, including a specific hearing Rubio had called for on talk radio days before he skipped it.“Do you want the Foreign Relations Committee to be holding hearings soon into the circumstances of bin Laden’s death, and the circumstances of his being harbored in Pakistan,” radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Rubio on May 2, 2011. “Well, I sit on two committees that I think are going to look at this. The first is the Intelligence Committee, and I know we meet twice a week, and we’ll be meeting tomorrow, and I think there’ll be some questions answered there,” Rubio responded.
As the BuzzFeed report makes clear, the Florida Republican specifically urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold a hearing examining U.S. policy towards Pakistan. Three days later, the panel held a hearing called, “Assessing U.S. Policy and Its Limits In Pakistan.”
Rubio skipped the hearing.
We can have a conversation about whether or not it matters that Rubio has failed to show up at several key Senate briefings. The senator’s office insists Rubio is “briefed on the material covered” later, which is almost certainly true. Republicans said last year that this wasn’t good enough when Democrats made the same argument, but they’ve apparently changed their minds.
But when members skip the hearings they personally called for, it’s more problematic.
It’s also part of an interesting pattern. As we discussed last summer, in November 2012, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) demanded information on Benghazi, then skipped the classified briefing on Benghazi. In June 2013, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) demanded information on NSA surveillance, but skipped classified briefings on the program.
In October 2013, House Republicans demanded a briefing from the White House on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, then skipped the White House briefing they requested. In June 2014, Senate Republicans demanded a information on Bowe Bergdahl’s release, but skipped the classified briefing on Bowe Bergdahl’s release. And in July 2014, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) demanded information from the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, but when administration officials showed up to answer questions, Issa sent aides to represent him.
At least Rubio’s in good company?