Typically military posture hearings are a chance for lawmakers to grandstand and spout political soundbites that they promote to constituents in their home districts.
Those at the witness table often stick to their script of talking points, rarely deviating from the party line, and often times don’t even get a chance to respond as a member’s time for questioning expires.
But every now and then, tensions boil over and witness goes off script. That’s exactly what happened Thursday.
Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno were at the table defending the service’s 2014 budget proposal during the April 25 House Armed Services Committee hearing. California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who is a major in the Marine Corps Reserve, was questioning the Army leaders about the service’s Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS).
After criticizing an Army program, Hunter got up to leave the hearing without listening to a response from the witnesses, who took umbrage at the move.
“May we respond? I think I heard a question,” McHugh said. “Well, I don’t want to respond if the gentleman’s going to leave. Would you care to hear a brief response?”
The back and forth between Odierno and Hunter begins around 3:30 in the video clip above. The highlight is an exchange where Hunter, to summarize, tells Odierno that as a congressman he has the right to sit at the podium, criticize a program, and not allow the Army’s chief of staff to respond.
If you don’t let me say anything, we can’t have a conversation.
Well, you weren’t gonna let us say anything.
Well, you — you’re right, but I have that prerogative when I’m sittin’ up here.
Well, I have a prerogative too, and that’s to answer a question or an accusation when it’s made.
Update: This post was updated to reflect that Hunter was promoted to the rank of Major in the Individual Ready Reserve in 2012.