Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera may not get his official gubernatorial portrait painted after all. Sources close to Governor Rick Scott say that the soon-to-be U.S. Senator is considering a plan that would delay taking the oath of office in the U.S. Senate until January 8th, 2019, when he would hand over the governor’s office to the new governor, Ron DeSantis.
Florida’s constitution prohibits state and local elections officials from holding two offices at the same time, meaning that Scott would have to resign as governor if he wants to be sworn in on time as a U.S. Senator.
The 116th Congress is scheduled to begin on January 3rd, 2019, but the day is largely ceremonial, with new and returning senators being sworn in as a group by Vice-President Mike Pence. Scott loves celebrations, and frequently attended birthday parties of staffers both inside the governor’s office and in private. So it is likely with a tinge of regret that he’d miss the pomp-and-circumstance of the U.S. Senate’s kickoff celebration. But it would allow him to preside five more days over a mostly dormant state government and be present for the pomp-and-circumstance of the transfer of power from his hand to that of DeSantis.
Messages to Scott and his aides seeking confirmation of his plans were not immediately returned. But two sources with ties to Scott say that he is looking at different options that would allow him finish his full second term as Florida’s 45th governor while ensuring he doesn’t miss any crucial moments over those first five days that Congress is in session.
If Scott does decide to finish his gubernatorial term before heading to Washington D.C., he’ll have to make arrangements for a separate swearing-in ceremony. The Vice-President of the United States is also the President of the U.S. Senate, and typically presides over the swearing-in ceremony. However, Senate rules allow for a surrogate to administer the oath of office:
Upon taking office, senators-elect must swear or affirm that they will “support and defend the Constitution.” The president of the Senate or a surrogate administers the oath to newly elected or re-elected senators. The oath is required by the Constitution; the wording is prescribed by law.
The question Scott must answer is which official duties – those of the Florida Governor in the waning days of his term, or those of a U.S. Senator at the dawn of his career in the nation’s capitol – are more important.
If history is any guide, former Florida Governor Bob Graham resigned early to take the oath as U.S. Senator. At noon on January 3rd, 1987, he resigned at noon to take the U.,S. Senate’s oath of office, and Lieutenant Governor Wayne Mixson became Florida’s 39th governor, serving a span of three days before then Governor-elect Bob Martinez began his term. Here’s the full write-up from the Pensacola News-Journal