[House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House]
[Chapter 33. Oaths]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]


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                            CHAPTER 33 - OATHS

                              HOUSE PRACTICE

  Sec. 1. In General; Administering the Oath of Office
  Sec. 2. Absent Members and the Oath; Use of Deputies
  Sec. 3. Challenging the Right To Be Sworn
  Sec. 4. Oath Relating to Classified Information
        Research References
          U.S. Const. art. I, Sec. 5; art. VI, cl. 3
          1 Hinds Sec. Sec. 6-22
          6 Cannon Sec. Sec. 127-185
          Deschler Ch 2 Sec. Sec. 5, 6
          Manual Sec. Sec. 197-206


  Sec. 1 . In General; Administering the Oath of Office

                                 Generally

      The Constitution requires that every Senator and every 
  Representative swear or affirm to support the Constitution of the 
  United States. U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 3. Rule II clause 1 carries 
  the same requirement for elected officers. For administration of the 
  oath to officers, see Officers and Offices. The form of the oath and 
  the procedure for its administration are regulated by statute. 2 USC 
  Sec. 25. Form of oath, see 5 USC Sec. 3331 and Manual Sec. 197.
      Until a Member-elect has subscribed to the oath, he does not enjoy 
  all the rights and prerogatives of a Member of Congress. Deschler Ch 2 
  Sec. 2.1. Members who have not taken the oath are not entitled to vote 
  or to introduce bills. Manual Sec. 300; 8 Cannon Sec. 3122. However, 
  unsworn Members have participated at the beginning of a session in 
  organizational business, such as the election of the Speaker. 1 Hinds 
  Sec. 224. Although a Member has been named to a committee before 
  taking the oath, under the modern practice the election of such a 
  Member to a standing committee may be made effective only upon being 
  sworn. 4 Hinds Sec. 4483; 106-1, H. Res. 6, Jan. 6, 1999, p ____.
      In the early practice of the House, it was the custom to 
  administer the oath by State delegations. Beginning with the 71st 
  Congress, however, Members-elect have been sworn in en masse. 6 Cannon 
  Sec. 8. Under this practice the Speaker administers the oath of office 
  to all Members-elect at one time on opening day, although a Member-
  elect whose right to take the oath

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  has been challenged may be asked to stand aside. Manual Sec. 202. A 
  Member-elect who does not take the oath of office on opening day may 
  appear later in the well, in response to the Speaker's invitation, and 
  take the oath. Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 5.14. The Speaker also administers 
  the oath to Delegates-elect, the Resident Commissioner from Puerto 
  Rico, and Members-elect elected to fill vacancies. Deschler Ch 2 
  Sec. Sec. 3.6, 5.

                 Credentials as Basis for Taking the Oath

      Although the Clerk will not as a general rule enroll Members-elect 
  who appear without certificates of election, the House itself may 
  authorize, by unanimous consent, the administration of the oath to 
  Members-elect who appear without appropriate formal credentials. 1 
  Hinds Sec. Sec. 162-168, 553-564; Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 3.5. For example, 
  a Member-elect may be sworn on the basis of letters or telegrams from 
  the executive department of the State of representation, attesting as 
  to his due election. Deschler Ch 2 Sec. Sec. 3.1-3.4. The House may 
  authorize the administration of the oath where credentials have not 
  yet arrived, pursuant to a statement by another Member-elect or a 
  State official that the election in issue is neither contested nor 
  questioned. Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 3. Unofficial State communications 
  declaring the results of the election may be laid before the House 
  before the unanimous-consent request for the administration of the 
  oath. Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 3.4.

                        Authorization by Resolution

      The administration of the oath may be authorized by resolution 
  after a challenge to the right to be sworn has been made. Such 
  resolutions have included provisions collateral to the actual 
  administration of the oath, such as a condition that the final right 
  to the seat be referred to the Committee on House Administration. 
  Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 5.

                    Failure or Refusal to Take the Oath

      Members-elect entitled to take the oath may decline it by 
  resigning before taking a seat, because membership cannot be imposed 
  on one without his consent. 2 Hinds Sec. Sec. 1230-1234. A Member-
  elect may be permitted to defer his taking of the oath, without 
  declining his seat, until such time as questions regarding his 
  qualifications are resolved. Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 5. However, where a 
  Member-elect fails to appear to take the oath, the House may provide 
  by resolution that, if he fails to appear to take the oath by a 
  certain date, the seat will be declared vacant. Deschler Ch 2 
  Sec. 5.7.
      In the 97th Congress, the House, by majority vote, declared vacant 
  a seat where the Member-elect was unable to take the oath because of 
  an incapacitating illness. In that case, the medical prognosis showed 
  no likelihood

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  of improvement. The constitutional basis for the declaration of the 
  vacancy by majority vote was not expressly stated in the resolution. 
  Nevertheless, the power of the House under article I, section 5 of the 
  Constitution to judge the qualifications of its Members by majority 
  vote has been justified by the Supreme Court. In Powell v. McCormack, 
  395 U.S. 486, 520 (1969), the Court stated in a footnote that in 
  addition to age, citizenship, and inhabitancy, the article VI 
  requirement for taking the oath could be argued to be a qualification.

                                Precedence

      The administration of the oath is a matter of high privilege. 
  Manual Sec. 201. The oath may be administered before the reading of 
  the Journal and takes precedence of a motion to amend the Journal. 1 
  Hinds Sec. 171. It has been held in order to administer the oath in 
  the absence of a quorum, during a roll call, and on Calendar 
  Wednesday. Manual Sec. Sec. 200, 201; 1 Hinds Sec. 174; 6 Cannon 
  Sec. 22. The administration of the oath is in order even after the 
  previous question has been ordered on a pending matter. Deschler Ch 2 
  Sec. 5.17. Debate on a resolution reported from the Committee on Rules 
  may be interrupted to allow a new Member to take the oath of office. 
  Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 5.18.
      The Act of June 1, 1789, provides that on the organization of the 
  House, and previous to entering on any other business, the oath shall 
  be administered by any Member (generally the Member with longest 
  continuous service) to the Speaker and by the Speaker to the other 
  Members and Clerk (when elected). Manual Sec. 198; 2 USC Sec. 25; 1 
  Hinds Sec. Sec. 130, 131; 6 Cannon Sec. 6. The Act was cited by the 
  Clerk in recognizing for nominations for Speaker as being of higher 
  constitutional privilege than a resolution to postpone the election of 
  a Speaker and instead provide for the election of a Speaker pro 
  tempore pending the disposition of certain ethics charges against the 
  nominee of the majority party. Manual Sec. 198.


  Sec. 2 . Absent Members and the Oath; Use of Deputies

      The Speaker, or a deputy named by him, may be authorized by 
  resolution to administer the oath of office to a Member-elect absent 
  because of his illness or because of some illness in his family. 
  Deschler Ch 2 Sec. Sec. 5.8-5.12. The resolution may authorize the 
  administration of the oath at some location other than the House. 1 
  Hinds Sec. 170; 6 Cannon Sec. 14. Persons who may be designated by the 
  Speaker to administer the oath to an absent Member-elect include 
  another Member (Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 5.10), a State or county judge 
  (Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 5.11), or a Federal district court judge (105-1, 
  Feb.

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  4, 1997, p 1381). The deputy so designated reports thereon to the 
  House, which report may take the form of a letter from the deputy 
  designated by the Speaker. Deschler Ch 2 Sec. Sec. 5.8, 5.10, 5.12.


  Sec. 3 . Challenging the Right To Be Sworn

                                 Generally

      Any Member-elect may challenge the right of any other Member-elect 
  to be sworn when the Speaker directs the Members-elect to rise to take 
  the oath of office. Manual Sec. 202; Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 6. The fact 
  that the challenging party has not himself been sworn is no bar to his 
  right to invoke this procedure. 1 Hinds Sec. 141. He must base his 
  challenge either on his own responsibility as a Member-elect or on 
  specified facts or documents. Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 6.2. Such challenges 
  are generally directed at a single Member-elect, but in several 
  instances the challenge has been directed against an entire State 
  delegation. 1 Hinds Sec. Sec. 457, 460-462; Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 6.4. 
  The authority to challenge the right of a Member-elect to be sworn is 
  based on the Constitution, which designates the House as the sole 
  judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of Members. U.S. 
  Const. art. I, Sec. 5, cl. 1. Generally, see Election of Members.

                                 Procedure

      When a challenge is proposed, the Speaker asks the challenged 
  Member not to rise to take the oath with the rest of the membership en 
  masse. The House, and not the Speaker, determines the action to be 
  taken in such cases. Manual Sec. 199; Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 6.1. Debate 
  on the right of the Member-elect to be sworn is not in order until 
  after the remaining Members have been sworn. Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 6.3. 
  The pendency of a challenge does not preclude the entertainment of 
  other business before the House, and all other organizational business 
  may be completed before a challenge is resolved. 1 Hinds Sec. 474; 
  Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 6.
      Several courses of action are open to the House in disposing of a 
  challenge. First, the House may simply seat a Member by authorizing 
  the administration of the oath pursuant to a resolution determining 
  the right to the seat. Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 6.5. Second, the House may 
  by resolution authorize the administration of the oath based on the 
  Member-elect's prima facie right to the seat, but at the same time 
  refer the determination of his final right to committee. 1 Hinds 
  Sec. Sec. 528-534. Finally, the House may by resolution refer the 
  prima facie as well as the final right to the seat to committee, 
  without authorizing the administration of the oath. Deschler Ch 2 
  Sec. Sec. 6.6, 6.7.

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      Resolutions relating to the right of a challenged Member-elect to 
  be sworn are privileged. Manual Sec. 201. The resolution is open to 
  amendment where the House has not ordered the previous question 
  thereon. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 22.4. The challenged Member-elect may, by 
  unanimous consent, be permitted to participate in debate on the 
  resolution. Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 2.5. The time for debate on the 
  resolution may be extended by unanimous consent. Deschler-Brown Ch 29 
  Sec. 26.33.
      The seating of a Member-elect does not prejudice a contest pending 
  under the Federal Contested Elections Act over final right to the 
  seat. 2 USC Sec. Sec. 381-396; Manual Sec. 203.
      As to the procedure to be followed in contested elections, see 
  Election Contests and Disputes.


  Sec. 4 . Oath Relating to Classified Information

      Rule XXIII clause 13, the Code of Official Conduct, prescribes an 
  oath to be executed by all Members, officers, and employees of the 
  House before they obtain access to classified information:

      I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will not disclose any 
    classified information received in the course of my service with the 
    House of Representatives, except as authorized by the House of 
    Representatives or in accordance with its rules. Manual Sec. 1095.

      The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has interpreted 
  this clause as applying to classified information provided by ``any 
  person,'' not merely to data furnished by the House or by the 
  executive branch. Memorandum for All Members, Officers and Employees, 
  July 12, 1995.