Two Republican members of Congress have come under scrutiny after skipping the House of Representatives’ swearing in ceremony Wednesday to meet with political donors at the Capitol Visitors Center. The gaffe is gaining critical traction among liberals who point out that the U.S. Constitution requires members to be sworn in before casting votes.
On Thursday, Rep. Pete Sessions made a motion to open debate on the GOP’s plan to repeal the Obama administration’s 2010 health care overhaul — an action that can only be taken by an official member of Congress. Sessions, however, missed Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony while he and fellow Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick attended a fundraiser.
“That wasn’t planned. It just worked out that way,” Fitzpatrick said Wednesday. According to the Bucks County Courier Times, about 500 Fitzpatrick supporters were in attendance Wednesday for “Mike Fitzpatrick’s Swearing In Ceremony.”
Sessions currently serves as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign and fundraising organization.
Though Sessions and Fitzpatrick watched the House swearing-in ceremony on television in the Capitol Visitors Center with their hands raised, the Huffington Post points out that there is no provision in the Constitution that allows for a remote swearing-in.
Though the Huffington Post has characterized the even as a “fundraiser” and a website advertising the event said admittance was $30, Rep. Fitzpatrick’s office told The Blaze Thursday that the event was free to the public. “There was no fee to attend the event,” Fitzpatrick spokesman Darren Smith said. “Some people paid $30 for bus transportation to Washington, but the event was open to anyone who showed up, including several hundred people who drove down on their own.” By law, political fundraising is not allowed on capitol grounds.
Democrats were quick to condemn the congressmen. “Perhaps they should have read the Constitution yesterday rather than today,” a senior Democratic aide remarked to The Hill.
“You know, all this adherence to the Constitution has led to us [thinking] you should follow the Constitution,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. John Larson, Conn., said.
As the err was brought to the representatives’ attention, Sessions’ spokeswoman said the situation had been rectified Thursday afternoon. “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,” she said.
Fitzpatrick’s office also weighed in, assuring his constituents that he, too, had been sworn-in appropriately:
“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,” Fitzpatrick spokesman told HuffPo. “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.”