Jones plans to join lame-duck session of Congress

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones     launched a last-minute write-in campaign for Michigan's 13th Congressional District seat.

Washington — Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones is heading to Washington as early as Tuesday for the lame-duck session of Congress to temporarily fill former Rep. John Conyers Jr.'s seat. 

Jones, 59, won a special election Nov. 6 to finish out Conyers' term representing parts of Detroit and Wayne County through the end of the year.

Three weeks later, Jones said Monday she hasn't taken the oath of office and is still waiting to hear from the House Clerk's Office about when and where to report. 

"My plan is to go to D.C. regardless. If I don't hear something, I will probably be in their face to hear something," Jones said on the eve of the House members' return from the Thanksgiving recess. 

"They don't go back until tomorrow evening, and there is a great chance that I will be there when they go back." 

If sworn in this week, Jones, a Democrat, would serve in Congress for five weeks after losing the election to replace Conyers, who resigned in December last year amid allegations of sexual harassment, to former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit. 

But Jones' seating in the House has been complicated by her decision not to resign her city post. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan's office did not swear in Jones earlier this month with the winners of other special elections. 

Ryan's office has said it's waiting on the certification of election results from Michigan and "still evaluating other complicating factors including her holding two elected positions," for which it says there is no precedent.

Jones noted Monday that Detroit's council is on recess for the holidays, and that she's informed House leadership that she won't accept city pay from Detroit while in Congress. 

"To have a district go unrepresented for almost a year is ridiculous," Jones said.

"I have been elected by the people, and I am officially on recess from council until January the 7th, so I don't see why there should be any problem at all." 

Jones said she received correspondence from a House Ethics Committee attorney advising her that she would not have to resign her city post. 

"Based on what I heard, there had been a mayor prior to this who had served for three to four days, and for those three or four days they did not accept pay from their city and did not vote on anything (locally). That was in the opinion that I received from the Ethics lawyer from D.C.," she said. 

"I don’t know if the speaker was aware of that or not. Again, I am just awaiting to see exactly what is going on."

The Michigan Bureau of Elections on Monday recorded the results for Jones' special election after Wayne County certified them last week.

Bureau spokesman Fred Woodhams said the state will send the certificate of election to the U.S. House in the next few days.

"Once the House receives the election certification, this will be a decision for the whole House," Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said Monday. 

"Any member can object to the member-elect holding two offices, and it can be referred to the House Committee on Administration, which has jurisdiction over such matters."

Incoming House members have typically resigned from incompatible offices — such as the president of a city council — rather than force the House to litigate the issue, a senior House aide told The Detroit News last month.

Jones said she was concerned to learn that the 13th District offices have not been staffed in recent weeks. 

A voicemail recording at Conyers' former office in Washington said the office is "temporarily closed due to the special election." 

It's not the first time that Michigan would have a short-timer representing the state in Congress. 

In 2012, Democrat David Curson of Belleville served less than two months in the U.S. House after former GOP Rep. Thad McCotter resigned from Congress in July. 

Curson won the special election to complete the final weeks of McCotter's term from Nov. 6, 2013, through Jan. 3, 2013.

Curson was not a candidate in the general election. Kerry Bentivolio, a Republican, won that race and took office in January 2013 at the start of the new session of Congress.

Staff writer Beth LeBlanc contributed

Twitter: @nannburke