If only they’d read the Constitution sooner

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.