Slaughter Wants GOP to Investigate Early Votes

Posted January 7, 2011 at 4:23pm

Updated: 8:38 p.m.

The top Democrat on the Rules Committee called Friday for further scrutiny into two Republicans who took part in official House business without being sworn in.

“I urge the Republican majority to use their investigative powers to clarify the circumstances surrounding the issue, and take any steps necessary to enforce the ethics of the US House of Representatives,” Slaughter wrote on her Congressional blog.

“We must not return to the Abramoff age of ethics violations being hidden from public view,” she wrote, referring to the lobbying and political corruption scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whom a Senate committee first began investigating in 2004.

Incoming freshman Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) were not on the House floor during Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony. Under the Constitution, which was read on the House floor Thursday, only sworn Members of Congress are allowed to conduct official business. Sessions and Fitzpatrick voted eight times in the 112th Congress before being sworn in Thursday afternoon.

Fitzpatrick and Sessions apologized to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday. “We are deeply committed to fulfilling our role in our constitutional democracy by maintaining the integrity of the People’s House,” the two wrote in a letter, which was posted by Talking Points Memo. “Our absence on the House floor during the oath of office ceremony for the 112th Congress — while not intentional — fell short of this standard by creating uncertainty regarding our standing in this body.”

They continued, “While we immediately took steps to rectify the situation, we understand that our error allowed the integrity of this great legislative body’s proceedings to be called into question. We regret that this incident adversely affected House proceedings and apologize for any individual inconvenience our actions may have caused.”

Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) introduced a resolution that invalidates the votes that the pair took before being sworn in but validates all other Congressional actions, including bill introduction and committee participation. The resolution was adopted Friday, 257-159.

But that wasn’t good enough for Slaughter, who wrote that the “Republican majority threw their promises of transparency and accountability out the window and attempted to fix the Constitutional violation with a total of 4 minutes of debate.”

Sessions’ office declined to comment. Fitzpatrick’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 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.