Oops: GOP Reps Skip Swearing-In, Violate Constitution, Screw Up Votes

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Two Republican congressmen skipped the swearing-in ceremony for the 112th Congress Wednesday, a violation of the Constitution that no one noticed until they'd voted, wrongly, several times, forcing a health care repeal hearing to be recessed. Pete Sessions, an old pro who perhaps should have known better, was attending a fundraiser for freshman Mike Fitzpatrick in a different room while their fellow representatives were being sworn in. The duo took their oath to the TV, which was televising the ceremony. Swearing in via C-SPAN, however, is not good enough for the crusty ole Constitution.

Fitzpatrick's freshman error will not cause as many problems as Sessions's, Talking Points Memo's Evan McMorris-Santoro reports. Sessions is on the House Rules Committee, and spent all of Thursday voting on key measures like a real congressman. When committee chair David Dreier found out, he recessed the hearing to figure out what to do. A rules packaged passed might not count anymore either. And now Speaker John Boehner is trying to convince Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to allow a unanimous consent decree so all the fake votes cast by Firtzpatrick and Sessions will retroactively count as real ones. The two have now been officially sworn in.

  • 'Oh, the Irony' Nicole Belle writes at Crooks and Liars. "Yup, they really love the Constitution. On the same day they make the hugely gratuitous and emptily symbolic gesture of demanding that the Constitution be read on the House floor, the GOP leadership forgets to swear in two members of Congress. Undaunted, those unofficial congressmen had no problem participating in their first votes."
  • Amusing, But It Has Consequences, notes The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen. This session might need a massive do-over. "As for what happened the last time members skipped the swearing in but started voting anyway, preliminary research suggests this has never happened before."
  • Sessions Did Look a Bit Off, New York Rep. Anthony Weiner told Politico's Ben Smith. "I was wondering why he didn't look as congressional as usual this morning," Weiner, who testified in the part of the hearing chaired by Sessions. "I'm happy to reprise my testimony now that he is legal."
  • Show a Little Bipartisan Spirit, Jed Lewison argues at Daily Kos. Lewison compares the mistake to Chief Justice John Roberts's flubbing of President Obama's swearing-in, which the president had to re-take. "Given that there's really nothing substantive at stake here, it seems reasonable to show a little bipartisan spirit and let the Republicans have their way, and treat Sessions and Fitzpatrick as if they'd been sworn in properly from the start. After all, the Constitution is a living document. And it's nice to see that at least some of the time, Republicans can see that too."
  • A 'Dopey Unforced Error' Hot Air's Allahpundit writes. But Democrats shouldn't be too harsh, and agree to let the votes count. If they don't, they "might actually have to re-vote on everything thus far--including the candidates for Speaker. Er, why? If worse comes to worst, just strike Sessions's and Fitzpatrick's votes from the roll. Worse won't come to worst, though, since Democrats are now all about cooperation. Right?

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