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Sessions never sworn-in; could affect health repeal bill timing

Updated 5:42 pm

Three would-be members of Congress were never sworn in yesterday, including National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, which could have an impact on when the health care repeal bill is brought to the floor.

The Texas Republican is a member of the Rules Committee, which has been engrossed all day in debating how to bring the health-care repeal bill to the floor. Debate on the bill is supposed to begin tomorrow, and it is supposed to be voted on Wednesday.

But the news that Sessions -- who participated in debate and votes today in committee -- wasn't sworn in could throw a wrench into that timeline.

The Rules Committee hastily recessed when Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA) found out Sessions never took the oath, and Speaker John Boehner interrupted speeches on the floor this afternoon to swear in Sessions and Republican freshman Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (PA). But any votes either of them participated in during the last day-and-a-half could be null.

(Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) was the third person not sworn in, but he filed a leave of absence with the Clerk's office for yesterday and didn't participate in any votes. He was sworn-in by Boehner before the reading of the Constitution this morning.)

Dreier is now waiting for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to agree to allow a unanimous consent motion to the floor to retroactively allow everything these two members have already done to stand.

Where were they when the oath was administered yesterday? With supporters in the Congressional Visitor's Center, according to the Bucks County Courier Times. "Wednesday, a sea of about 500 supporters overwhelmed a large room in the Capitol and caught a break when the Bucks County native took the oath of office in front of them rather than on the House floor," the paper writes.

Sessions' office provided this statement:

"During the swearing in of the 112th Congress, Congressman Sessions stated the oath publicly in the Capitol but was not on the House floor. 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."

*** UPDATE *** From NBC's Shawna Thomas and Luke Russert
The Rules Committee has reconvened, and Dreier has attempted to address the problem of one of his members not quite being a member of the House. Dreier said, “Mr. Sessions and Mr. Fitzpatrick took the oath yesterday. However, under Jefferson’s Standard of collegiality, one is to be in the proximity of the Speaker of the House when taking the oath.” He continued, ““When we report out this rule, we will take the steps to vitiate whatever votes were cast by those two members would obviously have not been in order because they were not standing the chamber.”

According to Dreier’s Press Secretary Jo Maney, this will probably be in the form of a resolution that is part of the rule that will have to be voted on separately by the House of Representatives. The resolution should also fix any issues that may arise from Sessions taking part in Rules Committee proceedings.

However, Ranking Member of the Rules Committee Louise Slaughter (D-NY) wasn’t so sure the problem was fixed. Slaughter said that she was “anxious” about the process and did “not want to be in any risk on anything that could go against the Constitution.” She told Dreier that the Committee should “recess and start over.”

Dreier chose to go on with the hearing without Sessions. Since Sessions wasn’t a member yesterday, he isn’t technically a member of the Rules Committee until the resolution is passed to fix this convoluted problem.