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House votes to clean up mess made by two lawmakers who botched swearing-in

On a 257-159 vote, the House approved a fix after Reps. Pete Sessions of Texas and Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania missed taking the oath but went on to vote as sworn-in members. The solution nullifies their first five votes but leaves other actions intact.

January 07, 2011|By Kathleen Hennessey, Washington Bureau
  • Reps. Pete Sessions ( R-Texas), left, and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) raise their hands and recite the oath of office as they watch a television broadcast of Speaker of the House John Boehner administering the oath from the House floor, during a reception for Fitzpatrick supporters in the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington.
Reps. Pete Sessions ( R-Texas), left, and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) raise… (David Garrett / The Intelligencer )

Reporting from Washington — A day after conducting the first-ever reading of the U.S. Constitution on the House floor, the chamber's lawmakers voted Friday to clean up a procedural mess caused by two Republicans who violated the Constitution on their first day in the new Congress.

A series of early votes cast by Reps. Pete Sessions of Texas and Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania will be scratched from the record, according to the resolution passed Friday morning on a largely party-line vote. Other actions, including the convening of a committee to consider the bill to repeal the healthcare law, will stand.

The two lawmakers landed in hot water Thursday after it was learned they had skipped the House swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday to attend a gathering of Fitzpatrick supporters elsewhere in the Capitol.

Sessions and Fitzpatrick watched the ceremony on a television from the party, they said, and spoke the oath to the tube. They then went on to vote as sworn-in members. Fitzpatrick, a newly elected lawmaker, participated in the reading of the Constitution, an event intended to reinforce the new Congress' dedication to the document.

Sessions participated in a meeting of the Rules Committee, of which he is the second-ranking Republican.

When House leaders and lawyers learned of the remote oath, they scrambled to come up with a fix. The Rules Committee was thrown into disarray, uncertain that its work was valid.

The Constitution requires all members to swear an oath before taking office. House rules require that the oath to be taken within proximity of the speaker.

The clean-up resolution passed Friday on a 257-159 vote. It acknowledges that Sessions and Fitzpatrick were not sworn in properly and nullifies their first five votes. Other actions -- Sessions' work on the Rules Committee and bills introduced by either lawmaker -- were ratified.

Democrats, represented in a brief debate by Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, protested the decision and even argued that Sessions and Fitzpatrick should be docked pay.

Sessions and Fitzpatrick were sworn in by House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday afternoon.

khennessey@tribune.com

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