ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf Reports from Capitol Hill: Remember Sen. Barack Obama’s chairmanship? The Foreign Relations Subcommittee for European Affairs? The one with oversight over NATO, troops from which are entrenched in Afghanistan and on which the lack of a hearing by Obama was the subject of some mumbling by Sen. Clinton during the primary and more recently from presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain?
It’s back again.
Sen. Jim DeMint is the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee for European Affairs and he wants the committee chair, the junior senator from Illinois — Sen. Barack Obama — to hold a hearing on NATO and Afghanistan after his tramp abroad this summer.
The upcoming trip (with stops in Afghanistan and Iraq) is, after all, a "congressional delegation" sponsored by the Foreign Relations Committee. And Obama is the chairman of the European Affairs Subcommittee, which we all know by now oversees the Europe-encompassing alliance NATO.
"I am concerned our Subcommittee has not held any hearings on these issues over the last two years," writes DeMint in a letter sent today to Obama. "With oversight of NATO relations and its role in Afghanistan, I believe it is time for us to focus closely on these issues. As Ranking Member of your Subcommittee on European Affairs, I would welcome a chance to hold a hearing on NATO’s mission in Afghanistan upon your return."
Obama came under fire from party rival New York Sen. Hillary Clinton during the primary for ignoring his committee assignment and not chairing any NATO-related hearings since taking the chairmanship in January of 2007, after his presidential run was already in full swing.
He chaired one hearing in April on nominations.
But has otherwise been engaged with his campaign.
McCain has a similar problem. He is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, but has passed his duties, for the most part, off to Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a former chairman and returned only in April to hear testimony from Gen. Petraeus and Admiral Crocker on the status of the surge strategy. When Petraeus was nominated in May for a promotion, to go from leading the multi-national force in Iraq to leading US Central Command, which oversees Iraq and the entire Middle East, McCain did not return to the Hill for the May 22 hearing.
UPDATE: Turns out DeMint, the ranking member, didn’t attend the one hearing — the nominations hearing –Obama chaired from his subcommittee on 4/7. He had the committee chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar, enter a statement into the record for him.
DeMint is the very same Senator who drew boos on the Senate floor when he made all his colleagues stay in town last Friday for votes on the Housing and AIDS bills last Friday and then skipped town himself to attend a wedding.