The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The strange case of the missing (or not!) congressman

There’s much that’s missing in the ever-stranger case of the maybe-missing congressman.

The Associated Press kicked off a game of “Where’s Waldo?” last week, asking what Rep. Steve Stockman was up to, noting that he’d skipped votes in Washington and had been making “virtually no public appearances” in Texas, where he’s mounting a long-shot bid to unseat fellow Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

On Monday, Stockman  surfaced on conservative Breitbart News, making fun of the media’s take on his absence, explaining that he’d simply been on a congressional trip to the Middle East. Oddly (or not, because what about this isn’t strange?), that wasn’t his excuse for missing votes. “I missed votes because I don’t have a zillion dollars like Cornyn and have [to] campaign,” the congressman told Breitbart in a text message from London, apparently the last stop on the overseas trip. “But I wasn’t missing.”

So… had he really gone MIA? One of those “hiking the Appalachian trail” deals?

Here’s what’s clear: Since Jan. 9, the last time he voted in Washington Stockman was, in fact, on an official overseas trip and “participated actively throughout,” according to a spokesman for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the California Republican who led the congressional delegation. And Stockman did appear at a Jan. 14 event in Texas.

Nothing in his statement actually contradicts the AP, which noted that Stockman had been spotted abroad during his trip with congressional colleagues and at the Jan. 14 event.. Perhaps Stockman just didn’t like the story’s characterization of his campaign: his “challenge has slipped from quixotic to downright unusual,” the AP reported. Oof.

When might we see Stockman back at his day job?  Perhaps at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address? Stockman, in typically bombastic fashion, invited Chad Henderson, a Chattanooga State University student who was held up as the poster boy for successful enrollment in Obamacare (though it later turned out he’d yet to sign up). Last year, Stockman brought rocker/critic of President Obama, Ted Nugent.

Stockman, who our colleague David Fahrenthold likened to a “a middle finger running for the U.S. Senate,” hasn’t registered a notice of absence with his party leaders (it’s often noted in the Congressional Record when a lawmaker misses votes; it’s kind of like students getting a note from their parents to give to the teacher). 

Then again, not every member of Congress gives such formal notice.

Stockman’s spokesman didn’t return our email or calls. But perhaps we shouldn’t hold our breath, since the AP story said the congressman’s office had disregarded six weeks of attempted contact.