A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

False Maxine Waters ‘Meetings’ Statistic


Q: Has Rep. Maxine Waters attended only “10 percent of congressional meetings for 35 years”? 

A: No. That claim was made in a blog post that cited an inaccurate comment on Reddit.

FULL QUESTION

Has Maxine Waters really missed 90% of her meetings?

FULL ANSWER

There’s no evidence that “Democrat Maxine Waters has shown up to only 10% of congressional meetings for 35 years.” She hasn’t even been in Congress that long.

That claim was made in a headline and blog post on Teddystick.com, which got the inaccurate statistic from a comment thread on the discussion website Reddit. The blog published the item on June 7 and Facebook users flagged it as possibly fake.

The post is filled with grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors. It calls Waters, who represents California’s 43rd Congressional District, “one of the most unpleasant people to ever hold be [sic] a public servant,” and accuses her of “peddling race baiting, socialist agenda’s [sic], and a hatred for President [sic].”

It then says: “Now the demented Democrat is looking even more foolish since an observant Reddit user known as 1tch has taken the time to gather the facts together showing that ‘Over Her 35 Years In Congress Maxine Waters Has Missed 90% Of Congressional Meetings.’ ”

Hardly. When another Reddit user asked “where can we get these attendance rates,” 1tch responded with evidence that doesn’t support the claim.

A screenshot of the June 7 exchange from “the_donald” forum on Reddit.

That link goes to Waters’ profile on GovTrack.us, which publishes information about Congress. The page shows her record on “missed votes,” not missed “congressional meetings.” And it shows that she has cast votes more than 92 percent of the time during her 26 years in Congress, not 35 years. Waters joined Congress in January 1991.

“From Jan 1991 to Jun 2017, Waters missed 1,305 of 17,186 roll call votes, which is 7.6%,” GovTrack reports.

That 7.6 percent is still “much worse than the median of 2.2% among the lifetime records of representatives currently serving,” GovTrack says.

However, a record on voting is different from an attendance record at “congressional meetings.” Tracking the attendance of members of Congress at hearings is difficult and time-consuming, but we looked at Waters’ attendance on the Committee on Financial Services, where she is the ranking member, for three congressional sessions. We found that for 2011-12, 2013-14 and 2015-16 she attended 94 percent of those hearings. As the ranking member she is also eligible to attend the hearings of its subcommittees as an ex-officio member, and she attended 37 percent of those.

That being said, it’s hard to establish an exact figure. The Washington Examiner, a conservative news outlet, published a report on missed congressional hearings in September 2014, based on the official records kept by the Government Publishing Office. The paper noted that “a member of Congress only needs to appear for a short time to be marked present, so the GPO numbers may significantly overstate actual engagement at the proceedings.” The article added that not all minutes are published, and half that are published don’t include a list of attendees. Still, the Examiner doesn’t list Waters among the 20 worst offenders that it found — of which only three members of Congress had missed more than 90 percent of committee and subcommittee hearings.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.

Sources

Di Gangi, Sam. “Democrat Maxine Waters Has Shown Up To Only 10% Of Congressional Meetings For 35 YEARS.” Teddystick.com. 7 Jun 2017.

1tch. “Over Her 35 Years In Congress Maxine Waters Has Missed 90% Of Congressional Meetings.” Reddit.com/r/The_Donald.” 7 Jun 2017.

GovTrack.us. “Rep. Maxine Waters.” Accessed 16 Jun 2017.

Rosiak, Luke. “Many House members miss more than two-thirds of their committee meetings.” Washingtonexaminer.com. 29 Sep 2014.