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Evening meetings boost attendance at House VA panel

Jul. 8, 2014 - 08:03PM   |  
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House Veterans Affairs Committee officials held their fourth evening oversight hearing of the summer on Tuesday, an unusual practice that staffers hinted could become the norm.

Typically congressional oversight hearings are held during business hours during the work week and only rarely on Mondays and Fridays, usually travel days for lawmakers.

But the spate of nighttime hearings for the veterans committee have all started after 7 p.m. and lasted late into the night, when most other elected officials are recouping from their jet lag.

Committee staff says the late hearings minimize the chances of being interrupted by other House activities such as votes — a common disruption at congressional daytime events.

The night hearings are also easier to schedule, since members are less likely to have conflicts in the evenings.

So far, the usual timing has raised eyebrows of veterans groups and other members of the public but boosted attendance at the hearings. All four of the evening events so far have boasted strong attendance by committee members, with only a few empty seats on the panel.

It’s also brought more attention to the committee’s work.

C-SPAN, which during business hours would only occasionally cover the veterans committee, has aired all four of the night hearings, since no other Hill events conflict with them.

Media attendance at the hearings has also been up, and public attendance by veterans lobbyists hasn’t suffered.

Committee staffers said the committee is already planning more late hearings for July, in advance of Congress’ lengthy August recess.

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