Evan Bayh Missed 75% Of His Armed Services Committee Hearings

WASHINGTON — Former Sen. Evan Bayh appears to have spent little time in Senate Armed Services Committee hearings while he was a member between 2003 and his departure from the Senate in 2011, missing more than three-quarters of the influential panel’s meetings, according to Senate records and a copy of his daily schedule obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Bayh, who is once again running for the Senate after a five-year hiatus in the private sector, is considered one of the keys to Democrats’ hopes of retaking the Senate this year. Although initially seen as a likely pickup, his campaign in recent weeks has been dogged by questions about his seriousness after leaked copies of his schedule as a senator appear to show he spent more time fundraising, traveling at taxpayer expense and potentially job hunting than being focused on his job in the Senate.

It wasn’t always supposed to be like this for Bayh, whose father Birch was a popular politician in Indiana, and who came into the Senate as a moderate, business friendly Democrat.

When Bayh took his seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2003, it seemed like the perfect move for a young, handsome first time senator with much higher ambitions.

Already ensconced on the Banking Committee, from which even an average politician could build a massive campaign finance war chest, a seat at the Armed Services table could give a young senator the sort of foreign policy gravitas he’d need to mount a presidential campaign in wartime America. The Bush administration, already at war in Afghanistan, was beating the war drums against Saddam Hussein and Iraq, and the committee was at the heart of the nation’s debate over the nascent war against terrorism.

But the ambitious senator rarely showed up to hearings of the committee, particularly in the run up to the March 20, 2003, invasion of Iraq. According to attendance data on the committee’s website, Bayh only attended five of the 24 hearings Armed Services held between Jan. 1, 2003, and April 9, 2003, the day Hussein’s statue was toppled in Baghdad. Overall, throughout his career on the committee, the Indiana Democrat would miss roughly 76% of hearings.

In fact, on the morning of the invasion, the committee held a hearing on that year’s defense authorization bill, a critical piece of legislation that laid out defense spending priorities for fiscal year. But while Bayh would miss the 9:45 a.m. hearing — where then Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham would testify about his department’s atomic energy defense activities — he did make it to an “informal breakfast” held by the Investment Company Institute earlier that morning.

That evening, as the first steps of the invasion of Iraq were raging, Bayh attended a reception — which a Republican charged was a fundraiser — at the home of Jamie Gorelick, who at the time was vice chair of Fannie Mae. The next day, following a members briefing on the war, Bayh and his wife would head out of DC to Vail, Colorado for three days, where he would attend fundraisers and a charity event.

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