Not so fast. A Rules Committee hearing today on the GOP’s bill to repeal President Obama’s health care law was abruptly adjourned for a spell upon revelations that committee vice chairman Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Tex., was not on the House floor Wednesday during the official swearing-in of the 112th Congress.
In fact, Sessions and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., may have taken the oath of office on their own, elsewhere in the Capitol, while watching it on TV—which likely does not cut legal muster. Sessions has since been re-sworn, his office says.
The miscue may be caught for posterity. A photo in today’s Bucks County Courier Times, a suburban Philadelphia newspaper, shows Sessions and Fitzpatrick holding up their hands seemingly taking the oath of office—but in a setting that is clearly not the House floor.
According to the Courier Times article, "a sea of about 500 supporters overwhelmed a large room in the Capitol and caught a break when the Bucks County native [Fitzpatrick] took the oath of office in front of them rather than on the House floor."
"That wasn't planned. It just worked out that way," Fitzpatrick told the newspaper.
Fitzpatrick "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," according to the Courier Times.
Asked where Sessions was during the swearing-in ceremony, his spokeswoman gave a prepared statement.
“During the swearing-in of the 112th Congress, Congressman Sessions stated the oath publicly in the Capitol but was not on the House floor,” said 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.”
At issue for the Rules Committee is the legality of several motions Sessions had made Wednesday night on constituting the Rules Committee.
Questions about the legality of that activity by a then-still unsworn member led Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Cal., to abruptly adjourn the meeting, and seek answers to questions from the parliamentarian about how to rectify the situation.
Rules Committee ranking member Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said she didn’t know what the committee will do about it—but said it likely will not present a significant delay in the GOP’s efforts to press the bill to the floor by next week.