Sessions and Fitzpatrick Start Terms by Violating Constitution

Jan 19 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I first addressed the “antics” of Pete Sessions and Mike Fitzpatrick a few days ago (January 9, 2011), an episode detailing the depth of their commitment to the Constitution:

Republican David Dreier claimed that Congressman Pete Sessions and Mike Fitzpatrick were sworn Members of Congress because they watched the oath of office ON TV (Of course, that’s not true at all. Speaker Boehner swore in Sessions and Fitzpatrick on the House floor later because, well…he had to). Watching an oath on TV isn’t the same as taking an oath. Can you imagine if President Obama had been sworn in this way? The kicker? The reason they had to watch it on TV was that they were at a fundraiser in the Visitors Center of the Capitol – a violation of House ethics rules. Oh, and then there is the little matter that both men violated the Constitution by taking part in House business – without being sworn in because watching it on TV isn’t being sworn in –  including Sessions casting a key vote to advance a bill repealing health care reform.

It turns out that three days later, on January 12, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) – a non-profit legal watchdog group – took action against the two men for the violation of “not only House rules, but federal law and the Constitution.”

Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed an ethics complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Rep. Peter Sessions (R-TX) and Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) for blatant violations of House rules, federal law and the U.S. Constitution. CREW’s complaint follows the revelation that both men skipped the swearing-in ceremony for the 112th Congress in favor of attending a fundraiser for Rep. Fitzpatrick. During this fundraiser, they made an invalid attempt to take their oath by watching it on TV, and then proceeded to participate in official House business. None of this is legal.

No, it sure isn’t. This sort of ‘Laissez-faire‘ attitude may get you through high school, or some colleges – or even through the Bush administration – but for elected officials to display such blatant disregard not only for their constituents but for the Constitution they swore to uphold (oh wait, they skipped that, didn’t they?), is an unspeakable violation of the public trust.

CREW evidently feels the same way:

“Republicans have made strict adherence to the Constitution a hallmark of the new Congress,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Now we will find out if that was just window dressing designed to appease the tea party movement or if they were sincere. Two Republican House members have blatantly violated not only House rules, but federal law and the Constitution. Will they be held accountable, or given a pass?”

Though they had not been sworn in at the time and were therefore not legally able to do so, Reps. Sessions and Fitzpatrick “voted six times on various issues.”

An “oops” does not qualify, gentleman, nor does Boehner’s subsequent swearing-in and vote nullification of these two men. This is not something that can be allowed to let slide.

Remember all the pre-election rhetoric? When the Republicans said they were going to bring change, I didn’t realize they meant they were going to bring the “same” as we got under Bush, a complete disregard for the Constitution and for federal law.

Oh wait, conservatives, right? Conservative = status quo, no change. It’s really kind of an oxymoron isn’t it, to say conservative and change in the same breath?

And ethics? My bad. What was I thinking? I was under the mistaken impression that ethics meant…oh, I don’t know…ethics? Apparently, reading the Constitution was just more empty grandstanding, and if nothing is done, the Republicans will tacitly be admitting as much.

We all know too that ignorance of the law is no excuse. It won’t get you out of a traffic ticket; it should certainly not get you out of violations of federal law and the Constitution. And look at the lame excuses offered:

Rep. Fitzpatrick claimed the event in the Capitol Visitors Center was merely a reception and not a fundraiser. This explanation doesn’t pass the smell test. A copy of the invitation to the fundraiser was posted on the Fitzpatrick for Congress website, and directed all questions to Rep. Fitzpatrick’s campaign committee. The invitation lists a $30 per person cost, permits a donor to select a specified number of tickets, and lists contribution amounts of $30, $60, $90, $120, as well as “others.” Furthermore, the invitation also instructs individuals who prefer to donate by check to make checks payable to Fitzpatrick for Congress. Rep. Sessions (who been chair of the NRCC since 2008) was a guest at this fundraiser.

If you’re going to lie, Mr. Fitzpatrick, at least do so convincingly. This is no longer the third grade. More rides on this than the activities of a nine-year-old. More has to be expected out of an elected official. Congress is not a fraternity and it’s not party time. CREW:

“It is incumbent on Speaker Boehner and Republicans to handle these clear ethics violations in the same vigorous way as the violations of Democratic members Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) have been pursued,” said Sloan. “This new Congress has an opportunity to demonstrate to the American people that no member of Congress is above the law.”

I suspect both CREW and the American people will go away disappointed in this hope. We have already seen the depth of Republican devotion to the Constitution and we should not expect too much from the party of status-quo.

CREW provides the following relevant files:
Click here to read CREW’s request for investigation. (.pdf)
Click here to read CREW’s exhibits. (.pdf)
Click here to read the OCE’s response (.pdf)

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