Rules Committee will write rule to address Republican oath gaffe

House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said his committee will write a rule to address potential problems relating to Reps. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) having missed taking their oaths of office on Jan. 5.

Dreier said on Thursday afternoon that both members took the oath of office and signed the Oath Book, but were not in the proximity of the House Speaker when he swore in members of the House. Dreier said both members were in the Visitor Center and took the oath along with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) when he swore in members, but because they were not in the chamber, they are technically not seen as having been sworn in.

This problem interrupted a daylong Rules hearing on a rule to consider healthcare repeal legislation. When the committee returned at around 5 p.m., Dreier said his committee would write a rule to address the problem. Dreier indicated that the rule would essentially nullify any votes that Sessions and Fitzpatrick have taken so far, and said Republicans are working with "experts" to write the rule correctly.

It was not immediately clear whether this would satisfy Democrats. Ranking Rules Committee member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said Democrats are "anxious" about how to fix the problem, and suggested that the committee be adjourned and that it start again once the two members are sworn in.

The error has a particular significance for the Rules Committee, since Sessions is a member of the committee and was presiding over some portions of the hearing Thursday. Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) asked if it was "OK" for Sessions to be doing this, and Dreier said the rule would consider House floor votes and his leadership on the Rules Committee on Thursday.

However, Dreier said, the incident in no way causes any other problems in the committee, saying that "nothing has been violated." The committee has moved back to its discussion on the healthcare bill.

Democrats pounced on the gaffe. "Republicans have spent a lot of time over the past two days proselytizing about House rules, but they don’t seem very keen on actually following the rules," the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement earlier in the day Thursday.