After three weeks in session, the House has finally reached the level of 434 Members, with one vacancy, the seat of the late Rep. Bob Matsui (D-Calif.).
Between votes Tuesday night, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) swore in four lawmakers who, until that point, were not officially part of the 109th Congress.
Reps. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) all took the oath from Hastert on Tuesday. Aides to the lawmakers gave a mix of reasons for the delay.
Cannon lost his eldest daughter Rachel, 25, to cancer on Dec. 30 after a four-year battle and was not able to attend the opening day of the Congress to be sworn in. One of eight children, Rachel Cannon suffered from a rare form of cancer, and Cannon spent much of the last two months of 2004 in Utah with his family.
Honda has been suffering from neck problems and was receiving medical attention back in California. “Congressman Honda was in San Jose receiving medical treatment for a pinched nerve in his neck,” said Jay Staunton, Honda’s communications director.
Gutierrez had a “longstanding family commitment” and informed Hastert that he couldn’t get sworn in until later in the month, according to Scott Frotman, his spokesman.
Osborne was actually present on opening day and voted for Hastert for Speaker. But the Nebraska Republican, a college football icon, then flew to Miami where he was honored as an “Orange Bowl Championship Legend.” Osborne was head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team for 25 years and won three national championships.
Until they are officially sworn in, lawmakers are simply known as Members-elect, and as such they cannot vote in the House, introduce legislation or be appointed to committees.
In the case of all of these Members, however, these rules weren’t completely adhered to. All four co-sponsored bills before being sworn in, although none appeared to be the lead sponsor of any legislation introduced so far this year.
In addition, all four were named to standing committees by their respective parties for the 109th Congress despite the fact that they weren’t technically part of it yet.
However, none of the four lawmakers voted, except for Osborne supporting Hastert for Speaker, having not been issued voting cards for the new session until after they were sworn in.
The special open primary to replace Matsui will be held March 8.