Ah, memories. It seems like only yesterday that we were speculating on what the 112th Congress would be like. In fact, it was four days ago. But in a very short span of time, the 112th has already offered us some memorable and telling moments.
Here’s a run-down of the best (so far) of the new Congress:1. My, What A Large Gavel You Have
First, a light moment. When Nancy Pelosi symbolically passed the gavel over to new Speaker of the House John Boehner on Wednesday, she made a little crack about the size of the er… object.
“I now pass this gavel, which is larger than most gavels here, but the gavel of choice of Speaker Boehner,” Pelosi said, drawing guffaws from lawmakers.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Class Is Now In Session: 112th Congress Sworn In]
2. The Most Boring Seder Ever
On Thursday, Republicans made good on their plan to read the Constitution aloud in the House. Except they didn’t read the whole thing. Since no one wanted to go up and recite how black slaves once counted as three-fifths of a person, lawmakers read from an “amended version” of the document, which excluded sections that were changed from the original.
And while the reading happened largely to please Republicans’ Tea Party backers, a government waste expert said the exercise may have cost over $1 million in taxpayer dollars. Smaller government, indeed.
3. Attack Of The Birther Interrupter
Even an “amended” Constitution couldn’t prevent a little controversy. As Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) read Section 1 of Article Two, the so-called “natural born citizen” clause, a woman seated in the gallery of the House let out a shout.
“Except Obama, except Obama, help us Jesus!” she was heard screaming.
Members of the birther movement, who believe Obama was born in Kenya, point to the “natural born citizen” clause as “proof” that the President is ineligible to serve. Slate’s Dave Weigel reported that he was told the woman was Theresa Cao, “a birther activist and supporter of court-martialed birther Lt. Col. Terry Lakin.”
4. We Didn’t Know We Couldn’t Do That (Telecommuting Republicans Edition)
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and freshman Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) didn’t make it to the official swearing in ceremony on Wednesday — they were at an event for Fitzpatrick’s supporters at the nearby Capitol Visitors Center. So the two Congressmen raised their right hands and recited their oaths while watching the action on a television (picture here), thinking that would count. But the move ended up making essentially everything they did between Wednesday and Thursday afternoon unconstitutional, and left Republicans scrambling to clean up the mess.
On Thursday, the House Rules Committee had to recess hearings on repealing the health care law after it was discovered that Sessions, who had been casting votes all day, hadn’t been sworn in (“We’re in uncharted waters,” Committee chair David Dreier (R-CA) said), and it was speculated that Republicans’ repeal efforts would be delayed. On Friday, the House voted 257 to 159 to strike Sessions and Fitzpatrick’s Wednesday and Thursday votes from the record, ending the pair’s brief tenure as unconstitutional members of Congress.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Meet The New House Republican Leadership]
5. The Incomparable Steve King
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has been making out-there statement for a long time. But if the first three days of the 112th are any indication, we could be looking at a career session for the contentious Republican. Some may point to his ‘Dead Baby In Garbage Can’ argument for the unconstitutionality of the health care law as his top performance of the week, but we’re going to go with his valiant defense of Republicans’ “mendacity,” delivered on the floor of House late Thursday.
“As I deliberate and I listen to the gentleman from Tennessee, I have to make the point that when you challenge the mendacity of the leader or another member, there is an opportunity to rise to a point of order, there is an opportunity to make a motion to take the gentleman’s words down, however many of the members are off on other endeavors and I would make the point that the leader and the speaker have established their integrity and their mendacity for years in this Congress and I don’t believe it can be effectively challenged and those who do so actually cast aspersions on themselves by making wild accusations,” King said.
The fact that King was able to pack both moments into a three-day span perhaps portends special things to come.