The certified winner of an office in the U.S. House of Representatives may not be seated with other members of Congress by incoming speaker Nancy Pelosi next week for one reason.
He's a Republican.
In an extremely close race in Florida's 13th District, Republican Vern Buchanan defeated Democrat Christine Jennings by 369 votes. But ongoing legal challenges by Democrats are putting Buchanan's claim to the seat in jeopardy, now that the party in control of the majority has shifted away from the GOP.
"The bottom line here is that nothing's off the table," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
The paper reports Pelosi has refused to shut the door on Jennings, until all audits, lawsuits and a House investigation are completed.
Aides for Buchanan say the Republican will be in the nation's capital next month despite the threat from Pelosi's office.
"Historical precedent is that when there's a contested race the certified winner be seated," said Buchanan spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts. "Therefore, we fully expect Vern Buchanan to be seated on Jan. 4."
But Pelosi's office says seating a certified victor is more of a Republican interpretation and not a concrete rule. For instance, in 1984, a Democrat-controlled House refused to seat Republican Richard McIntyre, the certified winner by 418 votes after a state-ordered recount.
Two weeks ago, national Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said Buchanan should "absolutely not" be seated Jan. 4.
But not all Democrats appear to be jumping on the bandwagon to keep out the Republican.
"At most, he should be seated provisionally," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., a close ally of Jennings. "In my mind, I can't really justify leaving the constituents of the 13th District without representation during the House Administration and the court's review."
At this point, neither a state audit of the touch-screen voting machines nor lawsuits by Jennings and voting groups have produced any evidence to suggest malfunction on Election Day.
The contested election is now in the political realm as Jennings has taken her challenge to Congress, filing a contest with the House Administration Committee seeking an investigation and, possibly, a new election.
Such a move could take months to resolve.
If Buchanan is indeed seated next week, history would be on his side for keeping it. Out of 105 contests filed since 1933, only twice has someone been unseated, with the last occurrence in 1967.