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Two Republicans voted before they took office

By LARRY MARGASAK
January 7, 2011

Rep. Pete Sessions: Oh, yeah, that oath of office thing.

It only took two days for majority Republicans in the House to suffer their first embarrassment. Two of their members, including the House Republican campaign chairman, voted a half-dozen times in Wednesday’s opening session before they were sworn in.

Reps. Pete Sessions, the campaign chief, and Mike Fitzpatrick were at a reception in the Capitol Visitor Center when other members took the oath.

The two men saw House Speaker John Boehner swearing in members on television and raised their hands before the screen believing they were taking the oath, said Jo Maney, spokeswoman for House Rules Committee chairman David Dreier of California.

They were officially sworn in Thursday, but Republicans needed to craft a way to fix the problem.

Their “fix” is to officially tag the two as the men who weren’t there, through a resolution that will ask the House to nullify their votes — but not the voting results. The House, among other things, voted Wednesday to establish new rules for operating the chamber.

But the fix only will bring yet another embarrassment.

The resolution to correct the record is the same one that will set debate rules for the signature Republican legislation next week: repeal of the new law that changed health care insurance coverage in the nation. Democrats can now mix in the question of improper Republican voting with their vigorous opposition to the repeal.

There’s more.

On Thursday, Republicans had House members reading the Constitution aloud, so that lawmakers would make sure that new legislation did not violate the nation’s basic document. Article VI was read, of course, the one that talks about the oath of office.

It says senators, representatives, state legislators, members of the executive branch and judicial officers are bound by their oath to support the Constitution.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reveled in the Republican dilemma.

“Uh oh,” began a statement from the campaign organization spokeswoman Jennifer Crider. “Despite being in Washington, Congressmen-elect Pete Sessions (TX) and Mike Fitzpatrick (PA) missed being sworn into Congress yesterday. Not being sworn in and technically not being members of Congress didn’t stop Pete Sessions or Mike Fitzpatrick from voting all day yesterday and today or participating in reading the U.S. Constitution on the House floor today.”

Vincent Morris, spokesman for the House Rules Committee’s Democratic minority, said: “Mr. Sessions misses more votes than anyone else on the committee. That’s a fact. That he’s missing votes — and apparently missing his own swearing in — because he’s raising money takes the trophy.”

Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for Sessions, said: “During the swearing in of the 112th Congress, Congressman Sessions stated the oath publicly in the Capitol but was not on the House floor. To ensure that all constitutional and House requirements are fulfilled, Congressman Sessions officially took the oath of office this afternoon from the House floor. Public records and votes will be adjusted accordingly.”

Fitzpatrick spokesman Darren Smith said: “Yesterday, at the time the oath of office was administered, Congressman Fitzpatrick was in the Capitol building meeting with constituents from Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District. He took the oath of office at that time.

“When the oath was administered, Congressman Fitzpatrick had already signed the written oath of office provided by the clerk of the House. Today, after speaking with the House parliamentarian, out of an abundance of caution, Congressman Fitzpatrick was re-administered the oath of office by the speaker. The public record will be adjusted accordingly.”

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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