WASHINGTON, D.C.—House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) introduced last week H. Res. 14, which would amend the House rules to allow the delegates of the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico to vote in the Committee of the Whole House. In the 110th and 111th Congress, Democrats made it possible through the Rules of the House for delegates and the resident commissioner to vote in the Committee of the Whole House without legal controversy, but that privilege was revoked by the Republican rules package for the 112th Congress and again for the 113th Congress.
"It is vital that the voices of the 5 million Americans represented by delegates and the Resident Commissioner in the U.S. House of Representatives are heard in our legislative process," said Hoyer. "By changing the House rules to silence these voices in the 112th Congress and again in this new Congress, House Republicans are doing a disservice to our greatest traditions of political inclusion and common-sense, democratic principles. I strongly urge them to reconsider and to allow the delegates and resident commissioner to vote in the Committee of the Whole House."
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said: “The 5 million Americans in the District of Columbia and the U.S. insular areas live under laws not fully of their making. That is not the ideal of representational democracy our founders envisioned in the Constitution. My colleagues and I asked today to have our vote in the Committee of the Whole restored. Yet, ultimately, we must all set our eyes beyond that limited goal and decide that every United States citizen—no matter where in America they may live—must be fully represented here in the people’s House.”
Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo, (D-GU) said: “The ability to cast a vote is the most basic of rights in our representative democracy. In the people’s House, votes cast by members of Congress make us accountable to our constituents and allow them to understand where we stand on important issues. The Republican rules package adopted by the 113th Congress once again removes voting rights for members from the territories and the District of Columbia and continues to make this body less transparent and less responsive to the more than four million Americans who live in our districts. Republicans talk about openness and transparency but don’t act when they have the chance to prove this to all American people. This symbolic vote would give us parity with other members and strengthen the long-cherished values of this body. I thank Mr. Hoyer for his continued leadership on all matters of importance to the territories. The territories know of no better advocate for our issues.”
Eleanor Holmes Norton, Delegate, District of Columbia, said: “Once again, we are grateful that Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer is stepping forward to lead House Democrats in insisting that our vote on the House floor, which we first won in the 103rd Congress, be returned in the 113th. For Whip Hoyer, as for us, denying a vote in the Committee of the Whole, approved by the federal courts, for the more than 600,000 taxpaying residents of the District of Columbia, who have fought in all the nation’s wars, is unthinkable. We are encouraged by Whip Hoyer’s resolution to believe that the vote we have exercised in the past will be returned to us in the future.”
Eni F. H. Faleomavaega, Delegate, American Samoa: “Americans living in the territories are part of the American family. We fight and die in disproportionate numbers in defense of our nation to ensure liberty and justice for all. In my opinion, above all else, this qualifies our constituents for full voting representation in the U.S. Congress and I hope that one day this body will do what is right and uphold the principles of equality for Delegates and Resident Commissioners. Today, I thank Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer for making historic steps forward.”
Donna M. Christensen, Delegate, U.S. Virgin Islands: "It is ironic that the United States is the leading voice calling for people around the world to have more, not less say in the governance of their countries, while the rules of the House of Representatives disenfranchise the representatives of American citizens living in U.S. Insular Areas and the District of Colombia."
Pedro R. Pierluisi, Resident Commissioner, Puerto Rico: “Permitting the delegates to vote on amendments in the Committee of the Whole required us to take public stands on issues and sent a message of inclusion to our constituents. The revocation of this privilege—for the second consecutive Congress—is deeply discouraging. I represent 3.7 million U.S. citizens, far more than any House member and more than 44 senators. My fellow delegates represent over one million people. Our constituents are part of the American family. They fight—and many have died—in defense of our nation. …I thank Mr. Hoyer for his longstanding and exceptional efforts to perfect our democracy for all Americans, regardless of whether they reside in the states, the District of Columbia, or the U.S. territories.” (PR)