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Brenda Jones Sworn Into the House for Remainder of Lame Duck

Questions surrounded her unwillingness to resign from Detroit City Council

Michigan Rep. Brenda Jones was sworn in Thursday to the House for a short term that expires at the end of the 115th Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Michigan Rep. Brenda Jones was sworn in Thursday to the House for a short term that expires at the end of the 115th Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Michigan Democrat Brenda Jones was sworn into the House on Thursday for a brief term that will expire at the end of the 115th Congress. Her tenure is a break with more than 100 years of precedence since she will continue to serve in another elected office simultaneously. 

Jones won a special election in Michigan’s 13th District earlier this month to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. John Conyers Jr., a Democrat who resigned last December following accusations of sexual misconduct. Jones had also run for the full term that begins next year but lost in the August Democratic primary to Rashida Tlaib, who easily won the general election on Nov. 6. 

Jones was not sworn in alongside the other special-election winners earlier this month and at one point it wasn’t certain if she would be seated at all.

She currently serves as president of the Detroit City Council, and there were questions about her holding two offices simultaneously.

The swearing-in was made possible when the House, by unanimous consent, agreed to a resolution Thursday to allow Speaker Paul D. Ryan to swear Jones into the House without her resigning her city council post.

The Constitution doesn’t outright bar members of Congress from also holding another elective office, but the idea is generally frowned upon. 

The move to seat Jones upends a precedent that’s stood since 1909 — that serving in the House and holding a local office were incompatible. In 1909, the House vacated GOP Rep. George L. Lilley’s seat when he won the governorship of Connecticut.

“She very much wanted to essentially be faithful to the votes of her constituents, and so all of us are here proudly to be with her,” said fellow Michigan Democrat Sander M. Levin, who is retiring next month. 

“13th Congressional District, your voice has been heard,” Jones said Thursday after being sworn in on the House floor. “And I am now seated as your representative of the United States of America. It is time to get to work. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves in this lame-duck session. Do what you expect me to do. And join my colleagues in getting the job done.”

There is precedent for a short-term, lame-duck lawmaker who serve roughly from Election Day until the end of the current term and whose tenures can be measured in weeks, or even days. In 2012, David A. Curson, a a Michigan Democrat, won a special election over Republican Kerry Bentivolio to fill the remaining term of GOP Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, who had resigned. Curson was not a candidate for the general election held simultaneously, which was won by Bentivolio.

In 2006, Republican Shelley Sekula-Gibbs won a special election for a Texas seat held by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who had resigned following an indictment. Sekula-Gibbs lost the same day’s general election as a write-in candidate to Democrat Nick Lampson, who did not run in the special election. 

Jonathan Miller and Jason Dick contributed to this report.Also Watch: Antonio Delgado Is for a Public Option, Renewable Energy and Restoring People’s Faith in Democracy

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