Varilek: Noem skipped hearing on school lunchesCongresswoman was in SD for Guard sendoff ceremony and missed hearing.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
The candidates for South Dakota’s congressional seat engaged in a food fight Wednesday.
In a campaign increasingly dominated by daily dueling press releases and counter-charges, Democrat Matt Varilek said Rep. Kristi Noem is out of the lunch line for criticizing new federal standards on school lunches.
Varilek said “official records reveal she skipped a May 13, 2011, subcommittee hearing dealing with the very issue.”
He also cited her “abysmal attendance record” in the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, noting she has missed six of seven meetings.
Noem’s campaign manager, Tom Erickson, said she had a good reason for missing the May 13, 2011, hearing: She was coming home for a sendoff ceremony for a South Dakota National Guard unit headed to Afghanistan.
The May 13, 2011, hearing was titled “Examining the Costs of Federal Overreach into School Meals” and featured testimony from school leaders and child nutrition experts who described the negative consequences stemming from the 2010 law.
Varilek and the South Dakota Democratic Party have criticized Noem for missing Agriculture Committee and House Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee meetings.
“We’re seeing a pattern here — Congresswoman Noem isn’t showing up for South Dakota,” Varilek said in the release. “This is now the third committee where Congresswoman Noem has been missing in action.”
He said of the 65 Education and the Workforce Committee hearings Noem has had an opportunity to attend since her election, she has missed 40, and there appear to be no scheduling conflicts or other meetings.
Erickson fired back at Varilek for leveling the charge.
“Matt Varilek’s attacks have reached a new low. Kristi Noem flew home that day in order to be back in South Dakota in time to wish the brave men and women of the 200th Engineer Company well as they headed off to Afghanistan for a year-long deployment,” Erickson said. “It is disappointing to see Matt Varilek attack Kristi Noem for putting a priority on South Dakota’s soldiers and their families.”
But he did not respond to the allegation that she has repeatedly skipped hearings of that and other committees.