The issue: The Matt Varilek campaign says that as of Sept. 25, Rep. Kristi Noem had skipped 17 of 22 Indian Affairs meetings since she landed on that U.S. House subcommittee.

We say: Matt Varilek, the contender for Rep. Noem’s job, seems to us to raise a valid issue here about job performance. Kristi Noem needs to explain what business has kept her from doing the nation’s business. And Congress needs to make it easier to keep track of which lawmakers are attending meetings.

If you like video, check out this one of South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem in action: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=643163953948

Although “missing in action” might be more apt.

The video shows footage from July 24, 2012, when Rep. Noem attended a House subcommittee meeting on Indian affairs but was scolded by subcommittee Chairman Don Young, R-AK, for apparently texting on her cell phone during her chance to speak.

Young addresses her, “Ms. Noem? Hello? Noem? Noem?” Then, losing patience: “Get off that machine, it’ll drive you nuts! Jabber, jabber, jabber.”

The Varilek campaign distributed the video link when it announced Sept. 25 that it had done new research showing Noem had skipped 77 percent of House Indian and Alaska Native Affairs subcommittee meetings. Varilek contends that of the 22 meetings that have taken place since Noem took office in January 2011, she only attended five.

Varilek also contends that Noem “fails to advocate for South Dakota’s interests” when she does attend.

Noem has already faced criticism from Democrats and reports from news organizations earlier this summer about her attendance and involvement on other committees.

Two issues are important here. First, Congress needs to make it easier for ordinary Americans to find out if their lawmakers are attending meetings or not. As it is, anyone who wants to look into whether Rep. Noem has been skipping committee and subcommittee meetings has had to resort to such means as examining video footage and transcripts of the meetings.

The second issue, of course, is whether Varilek’s research is right. If so, it appears that Rep. Noem has not taken seriously the very ordinary, very important work that a lawmaker does in committee in helping shape the discussion of issues important to the country.

The real losers here may be those of us who share a political philosophy with Rep. Noem and thought we were electing someone who would bring those ideas to the table.

Rep. Noem? We yield the floor if you want to explain what we might be missing here.

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