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Tilting at Windmills

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January 6, 2011

IF ONLY THEY'D READ THE CONSTITUTION SOONER.... Boy, these guys really are off to a great start, aren't they?

Two House Republicans have cast votes as members of the 112th Congress, but were not sworn in on Wednesday, a violation of the Constitution on the same day that the GOP had the document read from the podium.

The Republicans, incumbent Pete Sessions of Texas and freshman Mike Fitzpatrick, missed the swearing in, but watched it on television from the Capitol Visitors Center.

"That wasn't planned. It just worked out that way," said Fitzpatrick at the time, according to local press on hand, which noted that he "happened to be introducing Texas Congressman Pete Sessions while glad-handing his supporters in the Capitol Visitor Center that he secured for them when the House swearing in began."

There is no provision in the Constitution for a remote swearing-in by television.

This is amusing, of course, but the error has procedural implications. The House Rules Committee today was preparing the Republicans' health care repeal bill, but had to abruptly adjourn -- Sessions was the member who offered the motion to constitute the Rules Committee, but he hadn't been sworn in at the time.

Only those members who are sworn in are allowed to conduct official business.

There's some question about how far reaching this error might turn out to be. Because the House held a vote to approve new rules for the 112th Congress yesterday, the vote included two Republicans, Sessions and Fitzpatrick, who weren't able to vote. I'm not an expert on House procedures, but apparently Dems could argue that all business conducted with votes from Sessions and Fitzpatrick are void, and force Republicans to, as Roll Call put it, "restart the entire process of opening the new Congress."

This would not only be embarrassing for the new GOP majority, it would also delay the vote on health care repeal.

There are less arduous alternatives: "Republican leaders hoped to get a unanimous agreement from the House to retroactively approve of their votes and Sessions' work at the rules committee after they took the oath on the floor around 3 p.m. Thursday. Failing that, their votes -- which were not difference makers on any of the roll calls in which they participated -- would likely be subtracted from the final tallies."

As for what happened the last time members skipped the swearing in but started voting anyway, preliminary research suggests this has never happened before.

Steve Benen 4:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Comments

Once again, congrats America for putting these clowns in control.

Posted by: Holmes on January 6, 2011 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

If trained properly, even a dolt can read the U.S. Constitution!

Alas, I lament the 112th Congress will live or die by the hands and deeds of the ignorant, while hurling a world of hurt on the American middle class of all political persuasions! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 6, 2011 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans could argue that only Liberals have to swear... as Conservatives are such god-fearing types...

Otherwise, lemme be the 139,945,768th to say BWHAHAHAHAHAHAAAaaaaa!!

Posted by: PaulW on January 6, 2011 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans - great at campaigning (due to their ability to march in lockstep mostly). Actual responsibility, eh, not so much.

Posted by: jsacto on January 6, 2011 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

It was just a few short days ago that the Senate- due to a 'procedural screw up'- had to resubmit a bill to the House, and hence lost the 60 votes needed for cloture. Obviously the Republicans were not paying attention to detail. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 6, 2011 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

If Democrats had just a fraction of the belief in their positions that the Republicans do, they would be on this like white on rice and bring it up every day from now until the 2012 election.

Unfortunately . . . .

Posted by: SteveT on January 6, 2011 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

You have a good point and it is an embarrassing way for them to start.

On the other hand, filibuster "reform" just blew up in your face.

Posted by: Mike K on January 6, 2011 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Cirque de Congress

Posted by: Skip on January 6, 2011 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Once again, IOKIYAR.

Posted by: Rochester on January 6, 2011 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

I think a ROFLMAO is appropriate here, of course, the Democrats will make no fuss about it to disenchant those actually subject to rules, laws and decorum so that their souls are rendered even less significant, their voices weaker of timbre and ask them to dig a new sub-level in the pit of despair.

Posted by: Trollop on January 6, 2011 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry, be happy. The current administration looks forward and not back. If illegal wars and war crimes aren't worth a look back, how could not taking an oath be worthy of such an effort.

Posted by: tko on January 6, 2011 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the Repiglies ranted and raved that Obama wasn't really President because he didn't get the words of the Oath quite right (Robert's led him into it, go figure), but at least he *took the Oath.*

Posted by: neil b on January 6, 2011 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they can "deem" them to have been sworn in.

Posted by: jdog on January 6, 2011 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

If the shoe were on the other foot, the GOP would absolutely DEMAND that Democrats re-open the Congress, or they would have their zombies out in the street chanting that the Congressional session was invalid.

You can't make this stuff up. The GOP out of the gate VIOLATED the Constitution that they profess to be so "strict" on. By their own rules of engagement, they themselves should be demanding that the Congress be re-opened.

Posted by: June on January 6, 2011 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

You know, if these guys were freshman, I could MAYBE understand this mixup. But Fitzpatrick's been in Congress before and Sessions been there for a long time, so the "It's my first day!" excuse doesn't cut it here.

Oh wait, I have an excuse ready. You're idiots.

Posted by: gf120581 on January 6, 2011 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

If a democrat had done this imagine the OUTRAGE that would have ensued.

We are supposed to let this pass because the two were fundraising at the time?

What utter disregard for our country.

No, I will not let it go.

It's a small thing, but it reveals a bigger picture.

A non-Congressperson read our Constitution on the floor of the House.

Wow!

I hate the tone of arrogance that has swept into Washington.

To all you Democrats, stay fresh, be real, and nail the bastards whenever you can. The GOP plays that way, now it's your turn.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 6, 2011 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

They missed their own swearing in? Is that something you take casually? It doesn't seem like the kind of thing you miss, you know what I mean?

Hell, President Obama re-took his oath of office after CJ Roberts flubbed his lines just so there would be absolutely no doubt that he had been propertly sworn in.

Posted by: james on January 6, 2011 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

subtract their votes from the total? no way. if you play a game with an ineligible player, you forfeit the entire game, you don't subtract the points they scored from the final score. and the vote was on something Sessions introduced? uh uh. start all over.

wouldn't it be great if the media covered this sort of thing? if the dems did it, you know FOX would be all over it like white on rice.

Posted by: northzax on January 6, 2011 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

"like white on rice."
Posted by: northzax on January 6, 2011 at 7:04 PM

Frumentaceous racism!
A cereal racist, no less!
Right here at PA -- O, the shame of it!
.
I take my rice brown, thankyeweversomuch -- whole-grain of course.

Posted by: smartalek on January 6, 2011 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

If they could really force a do-over of the opening of business, they should do it -- TV would love it.

But I doubt they can, alas. The House is just too firmly controlled.

Posted by: bleh on January 6, 2011 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Republican leaders hoped to get a unanimous agreement from the House to retroactively approve of their votes and Sessions' work at the rules committee after they took the oath on the floor around 3 p.m. Thursday. Failing that, their votes -- which were not difference makers on any of the roll calls in which they participated -- would likely be subtracted from the final tallies."

You mean the minority party acting like assholes could screw the workings of the House? Then it's a good thing the Dems are the minority party.

Mind you, that doesn't mean some brainiac like Virginia Foxx might think that a do-over might open a portal to a parallel universe, or bring in the Rapture.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on January 6, 2011 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, fun to check out this comment by "Al" regarding Obama's flubbing the Oath (which he did retake!):
washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2009_01/016531.php#1444539

Posted by: neil b on January 6, 2011 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

wouldn't it be great if the media covered this sort of thing? if the dems did it, you know FOX would be all over it like white on rice.
Posted by: northzax on January 6, 2011 at 7:04 PM

I came back specifically to comment on that aspect of the story and here's northzax giving me the perfect lead-in...

My husband gets some of his news from TV (ABC, I think, though am not sure) and I asked him about the coverage of the story. Not a whisper, not a hint; the Good Lady forfend, that our "liberal media" ought to report anything showing the Republigasbags in an unflattering light. Especially on their first, parade, day...

The birther/Jesus-freak femme-loon who yelled out during the reading of the (selected parts of) Constitution *did* get a mention, though.

And I hope Pelosi has Boehner crawling on his knees and washing a passage for her with his tongue, before she agrees to forget about the screw up. But, tough as she may be, she's probably too nice to exact that price.

Posted by: exlibra on January 6, 2011 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

The whole dumb white conservative schtick is utterly embarrassing.

Why can't they be real adults and study what they need to for their jobs without putting on a romper room episode? The whole public showing of how they need remedial classes to do what their jobs requires is totally and utterly pathetic at what we pay them.

Posted by: Silver Owl on January 6, 2011 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

Amendment to come.

Posted by: youngnation on January 7, 2011 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

You can't make this up, part 2

They were at a fundraiser for themselves. Yeah, no time to do the job you were elected to; gotta collect the dough for next time around...

Posted by: zandru on January 7, 2011 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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