Biden hits back – More on Obama’s Committee

By Julia Hoppock

Jul 17, 2008 11:06am

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: The case of the European Affairs Subcommittee hearings continues. Biden writes a passive aggressive letter to answer DeMint’s passive aggressive letter.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, the ranking member on that committee, which is chaired by Sen. Obama, wrote earlier this week requesting that Obama hold a hearing after his upcoming trip to Afghanistan, where NATO countries are currently engaged.

DeMint had become the latest politician to complain (joining Sen. Clinton from when she was a Presidential candidate and Sen. McCain more recently) that Obama has shirked his duties as chairman of that committee.

But the Committee chairman, and Obama’s guardian-in-chief where it comes to foreign policy, Sen. Joe Biden, shoots back in a letter sent last night to DeMint that there have been plenty of hearings on European Affairs, they’ve just been held at the "full committee level."

"On the particular issue of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan," writes Biden, "We have held three Full Committee hearings in the last 22 months: one under Senator Lugar’s chairmanship (September 21, 2006: “From Coalition to ISAF Command in Afghanistan: The Purpose and Impact of the Transition”), and two undermine (March 8, 2007: “Afghanistan: Time for a New Strategy?” and January 21, 2008: “Afghanistan: A Plan to Turn the Tide?”).  At all three of these hearings, we were fortunate enough to have the expert testimony—in addition to other witnesses, both in and out of government— of former NATO commander and Supreme Allied Commander-Europe, Gen. James R. Jones (USMC, ret.). At my request, Senator Obama chaired the confirmation hearing for our next ambassador to NATO, which he focused on NATO’s mission in Afghanistan."

Aside: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hasn’t considered the role of NATO in Afghanistan since last January? In February, Biden called it the "Forgotten War," apparently for good reason.

Biden goes on in last night’s letter: "Senator Obama has displayed great leadership on this issue: he called nearly a year ago for the deployment of at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan — it has since become the accepted position of a wide range of U.S. military officials, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  I look forward to working closely with him, and with you, on any future Afghanistan hearings that might be held in our Committee."

The issue of how many hearings have been held will become a prickly one if DeMint, as a McCain surrogate, pursues it. Sen. McCain has skipped nearly every Armed Services Committee Hearing even though he is the ranking member. And Sen. DeMint skipped the one hearing Obama did chair to consider some executive nominations.

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