Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who announced his presidential candidacy last week, has attended just three of the Senate Armed Services Committee's 16 hearings held so far this year, the panel's worst attendance record "by far," Politico reported
The average member of the panel attended 13 of the 16 hearings, according to Politico, which said Cruz was the only one of the committee's 26 members who had an attendance rate under 50 percent.
By contrast, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is considering a run for the White House, attended 11 of the committee's 16 hearings this year.
Four members of the panel – Republicans Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Joni Ernst of Iowa and Democratic Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Joe Donnelly of Indiana – had perfect attendance records.
Asked about the absences, former California Republican Rep. Buck McKeon, who just retired after serving as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called public hearings a key part of a member's job.
McKeon said that for many lawmakers hearings are "the only opportunity to learn what is going on" because they do not attend as many briefings as committee leaders.
But aides to Cruz countered that the lack of attendance is not an accurate measure of his participation in defense and foreign policy issues before the Armed Services Committee.
Cruz "is deeply engaged in defense and national security issues," his communications director, Amanda Carpenter, told Politico.
Carpenter said that Cruz has been very active on issues related to national defense, pointing to measures he has introduced to impose sanctions on Iran and to prevent Americans who join terror groups like ISIS from returning to the United States to wage jihad.
In 16 pages of background material, Cruz's aides also emphasized that he has taken multiple trips abroad, including visits to Israel and Afghanistan, and that he has had scheduling conflicts with his duties as chairman of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. Moreover, when he is unable to attend, his staff monitors all hearings and provides him with summaries.
Last month, Cruz participated in a congressional delegation to the Munich Security Conference
in Germany where he spoke about the war against ISIS. The delegation was headed by Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
While Cruz has clashed with McCain in the past, the Arizona Republican said last week that he and Cruz "get along fine" and that Cruz is "a valued member of the Senate Armed Services Committee."
Still, Politico said, non-attendance at hearings can be damaging. At least two incumbent Democratic senators defeated for re-election last year came under fire for poor attendance at Armed Services Committee hearings: Mark Udall of Colorado and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
In the Tar Heel State, for example, Republican challenger Thom Tillis attacked Hagan, a freshman senator, for missing half of the panel's public hearings.
Tillis – currently a member of the Armed Services Committee – has attended 15 of the 16 public hearings so far this year, Politico reported.
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