Former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh only attended a quarter of his hearings while a member of the Armed Services Committee between 2003 and 2011, records show.
The issue could be an issue for Bayh, a Democrat, who is currently in a heated election battle with his Republican opponent, Indiana Rep. Todd Young, to regain his old seat.
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Bayh, who entered the Senate in 1999, became a member of the Armed Services Committee in 2003, right before the Iraq War was launched in March of that year. But Bayh did not seem to show interest in attending key hearings on the committee. Leading up to the Iraq invasion, Bayh only was present at five of 24 committee hearings from January 1, 2003, to April 9, 2003, BuzzFeed reported Wednesday. The story on Bayh's attendance at congressional hearings comes after a Washington Free Beacon analysis highlighted Bayh's poor attendance record earlier this month.
Fundraisers and vacation trips appear to have taken precedence over committee hearings for Bayh, BuzzFeed noted.
In fact, on the morning of the [Iraq] invasion, the committee held a hearing on that year's defense authorization bill, a critical piece of legislation that laid out defense spending priorities for fiscal year. But while Bayh would miss the 9:45 a.m. hearing–where then Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham would testify about his department's atomic energy defense activities–he did make it to an "informal breakfast" held by the Investment Company Institute earlier that morning.
That evening, as the first steps of the invasion of Iraq were raging, Bayh attended a reception–which a Republican charged was a fundraiser–at the home of Jamie Gorelick, who at the time was vice chair of Fannie Mae. The next day, following a members briefing on the war, Bayh and his wife would head out of DC to Vail, Colorado for three days, where he would attend fundraisers and a charity event.
A spokesperson for Bayh's campaign dismissed the former senator's poor attendance record as misleading and not indicative of how his time was spent. The campaign also suggested that Todd Young, a Naval veteran, had a similar record of committee attendance as Bayh.
Young’s campaign manager, Trevor Foughty, pushed back against that claim.
"The only thing more appalling than suggesting Todd doesn't care about his brothers and sisters in uniform is that Evan Bayh was on a plane bound for a personal ski vacation as those same American troops first entered harm's way in Iraq," he said.