Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D., Iowa) claim that he has supported the U.S. military while in Congress is belied by his record of missing key hearings and voting against a pay raise for troops, his Republican critics say.
The Democratic Senate candidate is out with a new ad this week touting his efforts to secure back pay for Iowa National Guard members who served on extended deployments in Iraq. His campaign also says he has sponsored legislation to help make disabled veterans’ homes more accessible.
However, Republicans say other evidence suggests that Braley has been hypocritical in his advocacy for troops and veterans.
The four-term congressman voted against a pay increase for troops in July 2012 that was part of the $607 billion spending bill for the Department of Defense. He was the only member of the Iowa House delegation to do so.
Braley defended his vote at the time by arguing that it was time to bring troops home from Afghanistan.
"While there are parts of the Defense Appropriations Bill that I strongly support—a pay raise for our troops and a provision blocking cuts to the Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines, for example—I cannot vote to spend nearly $90 billion to continue combat operations in Afghanistan that began over a decade ago," he said in a statement.
"We have accomplished the objectives of our mission in Afghanistan," he added. "Osama bin Laden is dead, al Qaeda has been marginalized, and the Afghan government has been stabilized. It’s time to bring our brave men and women home to their families and focus on rebuilding America."
The GOP has previously criticized Braley for skipping more than three-fourths of hearings held by the full Veterans’ Affairs committee in 2011 and 2012 as details of long wait times and falsified patient records at medical centers began to emerge. He did attend most of the subcommittee hearings on economic opportunities for veterans as well as markup sessions for legislation.
"During the same time period that he skipped 75 percent of the Veterans’ Affairs hearings, Washington liberal Bruce Braley voted against giving our brave men and women a pay increase," said Republican Party of Iowa chairman Jeff Kaufmann in a statement. "While Dave Loebsack, Steve King, and Tom Latham voted to give our troops a pay increase, Bruce Braley voted against this bipartisan bill and it’s why we can’t depend on him to standup for our active and retired members of the armed forces."
Braley’s reasons for voting against the Pentagon spending bill in 2012—including that "al Qaeda has been marginalized" and that the "Afghan government has been stabilized"—appear to be contradicted by recent reports from the Middle East. His statements largely mimic President Barack Obama’s campaign rhetoric from that year.
The al Qaeda offshoot known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) "now controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations," according to experts. U.S. intelligence officials say the jihadist group is now seeking to establish cells in Europe that could directly threaten the United States.
Some veterans have criticized the Obama administration for not doing more to leave a residual force in Iraq, which they say would have prevented ISIL from seizing large swaths of territory.
In Afghanistan, a presidential election dispute has "pushed the country to the brink of a civil war," Reuters reported on Saturday. Violence has also increased in areas where U.S. troops have withdrawn, suggesting that the Taliban may be waiting out American forces.
Braley’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
A series of what Republicans call elitist remarks by Braley have caused his poll numbers to dip in the Iowa Senate race, which could be vital to the GOP’s efforts to retake the Senate majority this fall. He is currently in a dead heat with Republican Joni Ernst, according to the Real Clear Politics poll average.
Ernst is a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard.
Published under: Bruce Braley