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During reading of Constitution, House Republicans violate Constitution

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Friday, January 7, 2011 10:25 EDT
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GOP Congressman may have broken the law by soliciting funds at swearing-in event

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) may have broken the law Wednesday when he skipped his swearing in, and instead hosted a campaign event.

Congressional ethics experts told The Huffington Post that it is against House ethics rules to solicit funds for events at the Capitol.

The invitation to “Mike Fitzpatrick’s Swearing In Celebration” asked for contributions of $30 or more, but a spokesman for the congressman said the event was not a fundraiser.

Original story continues below…

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) have cast votes as members of the 112th Congress without being officially sworn-in, a violation of the United States Constitution.

Both Republican congressmen failed to attend the swearing-in at the House chamber Wednesday because they were at the Capitol Visitors Center. They reportedly tried to take their oath while watching the swearing-in on television.

Under the Constitution, which was read on the House floor by Rep. Fitzpatrick and other Republicans Thursday, members of Congress must be sworn-in before conducting official business.

After discovering that Sessions had not been sworn-in, House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-CA) was forced to adjourn a Rules Committee hearing on a Republican health care repeal bill Thursday.

Rep. Sessions and Rep. Fitzpatrick both voted eight times in the 112th Congress without being sworn-in, according to Roll Call. Under parliamentary procedures, those votes do not count.

“During the swearing in of the 112th Congress, Congressman Sessions stated the oath publicly in the Capitol but was not on the House floor,” Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for Sessions, said. “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.”

Rep. Fitzpatrick was also re-administered the oath of office by House Speaker John Boehner Thursday afternoon.

Rep. Boehner is seeking to convince Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to agree to a unanimous consent decree that would allow the unofficial votes cast by Sessions and Fitzpatrick to count retroactively. It is unknown whether Democrats will agree to let a unanimous consent agreement go forward.

“Despite the fact that they read the Constitution today, they should have read it yesterday, actually,” a senior Democratic aide told Roll Call. “I guess swearing in their Members wasn’t part of their pledge.”

In a year when Republicans have promised to reduce wasteful spending, it was estimated that reciting the Constitution on the House floor cost taxpayers nearly $1.1 million.

Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said on Tuesday that his party plans to cut $100 billion in spending this year. GOP leadership has said cuts to the US defense budget are out of the question, making key safety-net programs like Medicare, food stamps and Social Security the sole target of their legislative agenda.

Along with cutting spending, Republicans have promised to scrap “job-killing” health care laws, crack down on illegal immigration, cut diplomatic and foreign aid funds, and investigate the Obama administration.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated a repeal of Obama’s health reform laws would cost the US $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years.

Though Republicans said they will reduce spending by requiring cost-saving measures for all new fund outlays, they exempted a potential repeal of health care reform from the rule.

 
 
 
 
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