The Republican candidate for Arizona's U.S. Senate seat, Rep. Jeff Flake, has a poor attendance record at congressional committee meetings and hearings, his Democratic opponent charged.
Democrat Richard Carmona's campaign has compiled a study that said Flake, a six-term congressman, has missed two-thirds of scheduled committee and subcommittee meetings during his tenure in Congress. Flake has denied the charge in recent debates.
Of 1,221 scheduled hearings and meetings, Flake missed 769 and attended 452, according to the Carmona campaign. The status of 158 meetings could not be determined, the Carmona campaign said. During Flake's 12 years in Congress, he has served on committees that include judiciary, foreign affairs, government reform and oversight, natural resources and appropriations, along with assorted subcommittees. The Carmona report cited Government Printing Office and Congressional Quarterly records.
Carmona said Flake skipped meetings on topics that include border security, immigration, national parks, Navy and Marine Corps funding, the Grand Canyon watershed and terrorism. Flake missed hearings for travel abroad and for a trip to Palm Beach, Fla., sponsored by the Club for Growth.
"Congressman Flake's job is to be an advocate for Arizona, yet he skipped two-thirds of his committee hearings -- including on critical issues like border violence and forest health," Carmona said in a statement. "Congressman Flake even skipped some hearings to take trips paid for by special interests. If anybody else skipped two-thirds of their work, they would be fired. But Congressman Flake thinks he deserves a promotion, and that shows how broken Washington is."
Flake has fought back, saying at an Oct. 15 debate sponsored by Arizona Public Media that congressional committees and subcommittees meeting times often conflict and most members of Congress have to choose which to attend. He said he does not travel while the House is in session. He accused Carmona, a former surgeon general, of not knowing how Congress operates. He also said that if Carmona is elected to the Senate, he'll have to make the same choices as a senator.
"You’ll have three committee hearings going on at the same time almost every week and you have to decide which one of the assigned committees or subcommittees that you’re on can you attend and so what he’s talking about is typical of any member of Congress," Flake said at the Oct. 15 debate.
Flake's campaign spokesman, Andrew Wilder, told HuffPost by email that Flake has "a good attendance record at committee hearings" and accused Carmona's campaign of "manipulating CQ committee transcripts" in obtaining the data. When asked for details, he did not return an email and voicemail for comment.
Carmona's spokesman, Andy Barr, denied the report on Flake's attendance is manipulated. He said the campaign "counted up where we could account for attendance."
CQ spokeswoman Sujata Mitra told HuffPost that the CQ Roll Call staff does not specifically track attendance at hearings, but does note in transcripts who voted during roll call votes and who spoke. She said if attendance is formally taken during the meeting, it would be in the transcript. She also said voting records do not give 100 percent accuracy for attendance.
"But many subcommittees and full committees conduct business by voice vote in part, so it is impossible to know which members actually showed up for the markup or business meeting," Mitra said in an email.
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