Washington (CNN) - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is in hot water for not appearing Wednesday at a congressional hearing on the failed attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said the committee had been told Napolitano would be out of the country and agreed to have her deputy, Jane Holl Lute, testify in her absence.
But Thompson said he understood that Napolitano's schedule changed and she was in Washington. He said the committee should have been informed if she was unable to attend for another reason.
"It's a courtesy the committee deserves," said the chairman.
Although the secretary's plans changed, Lute explained to the members that her appearance in Napolitano's place had been coordinated with committee staff. But that didn't quell the outrage of many of the lawmakers.
Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, said she was "personally disappointed" that Napolitano did not appear.
"She was invited to testify at this very important hearing and she should have been here," Harman said.
Rep. Christopher Carney, D-Pennsylvania, said he was dismayed by Napolitano's failure to show up for "something of this magnitude."
"It's fair to ask where the hell is Secretary Napolitano for this hearing, to be quite honest," he said.
Rep. Paul Broun, R-Georgia, said he was "incensed that the secretary won't take time to come here and face this committee. I hope the president will take disciplinary action and gets rid of her."
Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Amy Kudwa defended Lute's appearance.
"It's unfortunate that these members have chosen to raise this today," she said. "This witness was agreed upon two weeks ago, and no concerns were raised in the multiple conversations and briefings that the secretary, deputy secretary and other staff have had with members and staff since then."
Kudwa said Napolitano "is ready and willing" to appear before Congress. She would not say what Napolitano was doing at the time of the hearing, citing a department policy of never discussing the secretary's non-public schedule.
Napolitano did appear before two congressional committees last week and is scheduled to testify at four additional ones early next month.
After voicing the objections Wednesday, the committee heard Lute's testimony.