Former Democratic congressman Brad Ashford is taking credit for the current military progress made in the Middle East as he campaigns to regain his seat in the House, but records show he missed key committee hearings regarding the fight against ISIS during his two-year stint in Washington, D.C.
Ashford lost a tight election in 2016 to Rep. Don Bacon (R.) after just one term representing Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District. He quickly launched a campaign to retake the seat and is using his experience on the House Armed Services Committee to separate himself from other Democrats vying for the seat.
Ashford told the Omaha World-Herald the "tremendous job" the military is doing now in Iraq and Afghanistan was "enabled" by the work the Armed Services Committee did when he was a member.
Records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon, however, show that Ashford was a less-than-active member of the committee, skipping 41 percent of the listed hearings he was supposed to attend.
Among the hearings where Ashford was not present were a June 2015 hearing titled, "The Counterterrorism Strategy Against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant: Are We on the Right Path?" and a September 2016 hearing titled, "15 Years after 9-11: The State of the Fight Against Islamic Terrorism."
The Armed Services Committee does not take attendance at its hearings, but both video and hearing transcripts are made available. A review of those records found Ashford to be absent from 30 of the 73 hearings he should have attended during the 114th Congress.
Asked for comment on his attendance record, a spokesman for Ashford's campaign requested a list of the hearings he did not attend but did not respond to follow-up questions after the list was provided.
Rep. Bacon, who replaced Ashford on the committee, has thus far missed 5 of the 34 hearings (14 percent) he should have attended, according to a similar review.
A spokesperson for the Armed Services Committee said that committee staff does not track attendance, publicly or privately, and declined to comment on either Ashford or Bacon's activity in the committee's work.
Both Ashford and Bacon traveled to the Middle East as members of the committee.
Bacon, who just returned from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, came into office shortly after retiring from the U.S. Air Force as a brigadier general. He was deployed to the Middle East three times during his career, including a 2007 assignment in Iraq, according to his official biography.
Republicans targeted Ashford during his 2016 election loss for a series of votes regarding military operations against ISIS, including a vote for an amendment that would stop funding for Operation Inherent Resolve, the airstrike campaign against the terrorist group.
Bacon praised changes in the Middle East strategy made by the Trump administration, saying that expanding operations against ISIS is necessary to "protect the homeland."
"If they did control all the territory they would export terror," Bacon said. "So I think this is for us in the long run a more cost-effective way to protect the homeland."