House OKs fix for non-sworn members

Jan. 7, 2011 at 1:59 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution Friday to fix a problem created by two Republican lawmakers who voted before being sworn in.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., both cast votes Wednesday and Thursday despite missing the general swearing-in ceremony. Sessions also presided over a portion of a Rules Committee hearing on a measure seeking to repeal the healthcare law.

The resolution, among other things, invalidated votes Sessions and Fitzpatrick cast, but said all other actions they took would count as if the two representatives were sworn in on the floor.

The vote was 257-159, amid catcalls and boos by Democrats.

"They were in the capital; they didn't happen to be in this exact room when they took the oath of office," Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., chairman of the Rules Committee, said speaking in favor of the measure.

"Any member who doesn't vote in favor of this resolution is allowing the problem to continue. We have a responsibility to this institution, the Constitution and the American people" to fix the problem quickly.

The presiding House officer struck down several points of order and parliamentary inquiry requests by Rep. Andy Weiner, D-N.Y., who said consideration of the resolution violated the just-passed House rules that require at least three days' notice before a bill is considered.

"It is particularly important in this case because it deals with constitutional issues," Weiner said.

He was told the three-day rule did not apply to the matter under consideration.

While crediting Dreier and others for recognizing "the Constitution was violated," Weiner said, "We operated outside of this document" even as it was being read on the floor Thursday.

Several media outlets reported Sessions and Fitzpatrick missed the swearing-in ceremony because they were attending a fundraiser elsewhere in the Capitol. However, the lawmakers said the event wasn't a fundraiser because it was open to anyone.

Weiner urged his colleagues to vote against the resolution because, for the "first time in history," a constitutional infirmity was considered with only 4 minutes of debate and without adequate time for congressional members to review the legislation.

"Instead of reading the Constitution, maybe they ought to follow the Constitution," Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., said Friday during a C-SPAN appearance.

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