House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) abruptly adjourned a hearing on a GOP health care repeal bill Thursday after he became aware that Rep. Pete Sessions was not sworn in as a Member of the 112th Congress, committee spokeswoman Jo Maney said.
The Texas Republican was not on the floor during Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony, and neither was incoming freshman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.). Under the Constitution, which was read on the House floor Thursday, only sworn Members of Congress are allowed to conduct official business, but Sessions and Fitzpatrick have already voted eight times in the 112th Congress.
While it was previously thought that Sessions had introduced the motion to create the rules for the Rules Committee, Maney said it was later determined that Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) was the Member who offered the package.
Dreier is consulting with the parliamentarian about how to best craft a unanimous consent agreement to rectify the situation, Maney said.
“We should have an agreement shortly,” she said.
It's unclear whether Democrats will allow a unanimous consent agreement to go forward and Democratic aides pounced on the Republicans’ blunder.
“Despite the fact that they read the Constitution today, they should have read it yesterday, actually,” one senior Democratic aide said. “I guess swearing in their Members wasn’t part of their pledge.”
Sessions, who is a member of the Rules Committee, stated the oath publicly in the Capitol but was not on the House floor, according to his spokeswoman, Emily Davis.
"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," Davis said in an e-mail Thursday.
Fitzpatrick has served in the House before: He was elected in 2004 but lost his Pennsylvania seat two years later to Democrat Patrick Murphy. He then defeated Murphy in November.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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