Inquirer Editorial: Fitzpatrick's first-day follies

U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions (R., Texas), left, and Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) recite their oaths while watching House Speaker John Boehner on TV.
U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions (R., Texas), left, and Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) recite their oaths while watching House Speaker John Boehner on TV.
Posted: January 14, 2011

An ethics complaint filed Wednesday alleges that the new congressman from Bucks County missed his swearing-in to attend a fund-raiser. If that's true, it's a pretty good sign that Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) believes his main job is to raise money to get reelected.

By effectively launching his reelection bid even before taking the oath of office, Fitzpatrick comes off as cynical or clueless. Considering that he held this congressional seat before being exiled for two terms by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Fitzpatrick can't very well plead ignorance of House rules.

Whatever the case, Fitzpatrick subjected himself to national embarrassment by missing the House opening last week to attend a reception attended by more than 500 supporters at the Capitol Visitor Center.

Fitzpatrick denies he was holding a fund-raiser in a setting where such events are barred, but his political campaign's invitation to the event solicited contributions.

Fitzpatrick and Rep. Pete Sessions (R., Texas) later tried to take the oath of office remotely by raising their hands while watching the proceedings over a television broadcast of House Speaker John Boehner swearing in their colleagues. How weak.

Worse, Fitzpatrick went back into the House and cast several votes. Those ballots later were declared null and void, since the representative wasn't yet officially a member of Congress.

With their excellent adventure, Fitzpatrick and Sessions earned the further dubious distinction of being perhaps the first members of this new Congress to be the subject of a call for an ethics inquiry. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed its complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, alleging "blatant violations of House rules, federal law, and the U.S. Constitution."

Representing a district that seesaws back and forth between Democratic and Republican control, Fitzpatrick has less than two years to live down this episode. Maybe that's why he's so focused on his reelection effort already.

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