It’s not surprising that the audience was at capacity — after all, it’s been so quiet around Washington these last few weeks, and lobbyists have got to get those billable hours in somehow. But it’s interesting that so many members of Congress (the majority were Republicans, more than 20 in all; nearly half the committee’s roster) took time off the campaign trail to haul back to Washington.
After all, we’re at the feverish height of campaign season, and every second not spent kissing babies in the district or at a fundraiser might be a moment wasted.
So clearly, the calculation was that it was worth it to Republicans to take the time to come beat up on the administration for its handling of the attacks — the hearing was titled “The Security Failures of Benghazi.” Must play well at home? Maybe their seat’s safe? Or it helps the candidate at the top of the ticket.
Whatever the reason, it was a full house.
Of course, House Oversight and Investigations Chairman Darrell Issa was there. So was Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who has also been campaigning of late for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Both are in safe seats. Ditto many of the other attendees. Heck, there were even Republicans sitting in on the hearing who weren’t even on the committee — they just didn’t want to miss out.
Even Rep. Scott DesJarlais put in an appearance, despite the scandal swirling around him that one might think would make him want to duck for cover. The Huffington Post reported on Wednesday that the Tennessee Republican had urged his pregnant mistress to get an abortion DeJarlais is publicly anti-abortion, and the woman was his former patient — double uh-oh. (Our colleagues at The Fix report: “When asked for a comment on the Huffington Post story by The Fix, a DesJarlais spokesperson didn’t deny the report, but wrote off the new development as old news.”)
Democratic attendance wasn’t as strong, with locals like Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Gerry Connelly of Virginia in attendance, backed up by colleagues in safe districts further afield.