VA Scandal Weighs Down Bruce Braley in Iowa Senate Race?

by Joel Gehrke

“I fight for veterans every day on the Veterans Affairs Committee,” Representative Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) said at the Iowa Democratic Convention in 2012.

That apparently-innocuous comment might just be the first five seconds of Republican ads tying Braley, who is running for Senate against Republican Joni Ernst,  to the VA scandal, given that Braley failed to show up for three-quarters of the full committee hearings. 

A September 20, 2012 hearing that Braley skipped pertained to the disability claims backlog and mental health care provided to veterans.

“On the same day, Braley had three fundraisers on his schedule for his re-election to the U.S. House . . . He attended all three,”  the Des Moines Register noted.

“Braley’s aides said he skipped it to attend a 9:36 a.m. Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting on the “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking scandal. The congressional record marked Braley ‘present,’ but reveals that he offered no testimony during the three-hour hearing, which ran until 12:45 p.m.,” the Register also reported.

The VA scandal has been an issue in Iowa already this year. “New patients waited an average of 25.6 days for a general medical appointment at the Iowa City facility,” the Register reported in June. “That compares to 17.6 days at the Des Moines facility and 27 days nationally.”

Republicans want Braley to take the blame. “With an absentee rate of 78 percent on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, it’s clear Braley thinks his time is better spent pushing Barack Obama’s job-killing agenda than ensuring that our veterans receive proper care from the VA,” Iowa Republican Party spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement.

“The Braley camp is vigorously disputing this, arguing that he has done a lot for veterans and that Republicans are distorting his attendance record,” per The Quad City Times. “The Braley campaign says Republicans are cherry-picking data and ignoring the congressman’s attendance at 15 of the 17 meetings of the VA’s subcommittee on economic opportunity, where he was the ranking Democrat.”