Debate in US House of Representatives
Rules of the House of Representatives
05 th January 2011
Ms. SLAUGHTER. Madam Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia (Ms. Norton) who, as I said, is disenfranchised by this rule. Millions of Americans will be underrepresented.
Ms. NORTON. I thank the gentle lady from New York for yielding.
Madam Speaker, for myself and for the Delegates from American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, I offered a motion earlier that the House conduct a full and complete study of the constitutionality of the vote in the Committee of the Whole for the Delegates which is eliminated by this rule. This is nearly the same motion that the Republicans offered when we first were granted the right to vote on the House floor. The delegate vote was challenged by the Republicans in the courts and found to be constitutional, however.
Madam Speaker, this vote is a mere recognition of our American citizenship. The Delegates are no different from others in this House. It is one thing not to have the vote. It is quite another to be stripped of your vote. The vote is said to be symbolic by some. Well, to us it is symbolic. It is symbolic of the American citizenship of our constituents. It meant everything to us. There are differences among us, of course, but we ask you to think again about this vote and to restore the vote of the Delegates on the floor in the Committee of the Whole.
Ms. SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of a unanimous consent request, I yield to the gentleman from Puerto Rico (Mr. Pierluisi).
(Mr. PIERLUISI asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. PIERLUISI. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the resolution.
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Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to the Republican rules package, because it sends a message of exclusion and indifference to my constituents and those of my fellow delegates from the other U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
As the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico, I represent nearly four million U.S. citizens, far more than any other member of this Chamber. Together, the delegates from the other U.S. territories and the District of Columbia represent over one million people. Our constituents are part of the American family. They pledge allegiance to the same flag as their fellow Americans in the 50 states. They fight--and many of them have died--in defense of our nation.
Under a rule in place for the last three Democratic-controlled Congresses, the Representatives from the territories and the District were given a single, extremely circumscribed privilege on the House floor. We were permitted to vote on amendments when the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole, a parliamentary device designed to allow greater participation by Members in debate. The rule provided for an automatic revote to be held in the exceedingly rare instance where our votes affected the outcome. This rule was upheld by the federal courts and did not impede the work of this House in any way.
This simple privilege promoted responsible and transparent government. By obligating us to take public stands on issues of importance, it enabled our constituents to better evaluate both our governing philosophy and the quality of our representation. The privilege also sent a clear moral message--a message of inclusiveness--conveying to our constituents that their voices counted.
In a move that is as unnecessary as it is unjust, the Republican package will deprive us of this privilege, which may have been small in their eyes, but which held significant meaning for us and those we represent. The Republican package dishonors men and women from the territories and the District of Columbia. And in so doing, it does grave damage to the principles of equality and justice that our constituents, side by side with all of your constituents, fight to defend here at home and in distant lands. This is a true shame.
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Ms. SLAUGHTER. I yield to the Delegate from Guam, Delegate Bordallo.
(Ms. BORDALLO asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)
Ms. BORDALLO. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the resolution.
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Mr. Speaker, the Republican rules package makes this body less transparent and less responsive to the American people. By obligating the Delegates to take public stands, our limited vote showed our constituents where we stood on important issues. Our vote also helped ensure legislation considered by the House took our constituents into account. When an amendment came forward last Congress regarding the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo into the U.S., the territories were initially excluded from the prohibition. Our vote compelled the House to address our concerns. This is precisely how representative democracy is meant to work.
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Ms. SLAUGHTER. I yield to the Delegate from the Virgin Islands, Dr. Christensen.
(Mrs. CHRISTENSEN asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)
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Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the Rules Package which once again removes the opportunity for Delegates to Congress and the Resident Commissioner to vote on amendments in the Committee of the Whole. It was our privilege in the past two Congresses to vote along with our colleagues on issues of importance to all Americans, especially the over 4 million of us who live and work in the U.S. territories.
The people of the U.S. territories are a diverse group, much like their fellow citizens on the mainland. Some are born in the territories under the American flag, some have migrated there and embraced our culture and our values before naturalization, others were born in the states and have chosen by virtue of their chosen occupation or by love of our islands to make the territories their home. All are Americans in every sense of the word, except for full representation in the House of Representatives and the ability to vote for the President of the United States.
Mr. Speaker, the people of the U.S. territories have served their country in all of its
conflicts from the American Revolution to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have given their youth, their time and even their lives for our country. We had hoped through our participation to obtain the good will of all of our colleagues to ensure full participation in the democratic process for all citizens of our country. The events of this week have proved to us once more that we still have a long way to go to ensure equality and justice for all.
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Ms. SLAUGHTER. I yield to the gentleman from American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega).
(Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the tens of thousands of our men and women in military uniform from the U.S. territories, I just ask my good friend, the Honorable Speaker, restore our symbolic vote. That's all we are asking for.
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Mr. Speaker, the proposed rules by the Republicans for the 112th Congress give unfair treatment to some 5 million Americans residing in the U.S. territories. In particular, it eliminates the rule that allows the Delegates to vote when the House resolves into the Committee of the Whole, and that provides for an automatic revote in the full House when such vote is the deciding margin.
The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the Delegate vote on the basis that there is automatic reconsideration of votes in the House when the Delegate vote is decisive. Automatic reconsideration preserves the House proper as the sole arbiter for changes made in the legislation that the House considers.
During the three Congresses in which the rule has been in place, the record shows that the Delegate vote in the Committee of the Whole has not in any way hindered the work of the House. From 1993 to 2010, the House had a total of 132 separate votes demanded in the House on first degree amendments reported from the Committee of the Whole. In the same period, only four such amendments were reconsidered as a result of the Delegates being the deciding votes. this proves that the Delegates vote does not impede the work of the House.
While symbolic, the Delegate vote is important for transparency and political accountability. It compels us, representatives of the U.S. Territories, to make public our views and positions on issues of national interest that are important to our constituents. Hence, the constituents are able to make an informed decision to elect those that better represent their views.
Above all, the Delegate vote underscores fairness and has moral implications for the institution and this great nation. As part of the American family, a disproportionate number of our sons and daughters are fighting in the U.S. military in defense of the values and principles upon which this country was founded.
A statistical profile of Americans killed in the war in Iraq shows my district, the U.S. Territory of American Samoa, has the highest rate of deaths per 1 million population in all of the United States. Just last month, I attended the funeral of another soldier from my district killed in Iraq. Staff Sergeant Loleni Gandy, originally from American Samoa, was 36 years old, and has served in the U.S. Army for 17 years. He is survived by his wife and four young sons who now have to cope with the loss of their father. Like Americans in other States, the love and loyalty my people feel for the United States remains unchanged.
It is disconcerting therefore that under the new rules proposed for the 112th Congress, the Delegates are stripped of the power to vote in the Committee of the Whole. This is an affront to the tremendous sacrifice made by Americans in the Territories and further restricted what modest representation they have in Congress.
I urge my friends on the other side to reverse course and reinstate the rule to allow the Delegates to vote in the Committee of the Whole.
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(Analysis of the) Congressional Research Service
Dec. 23, 2010
Parliamentary Rights of the Delegates and Resident Commissioner From Puerto Rico
(By Christopher M. Davis, Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process)
As officers who represent territories and properties possessed or administered by the United States but not admitted to statehood, the five House Delegates and the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico are not Members of Congress, and do not enjoy all the same parliamentary rights as Members. They may vote and otherwise act similarly to Members in legislative committee; may
not vote in the House, but may participate in debate and make most motions there; and, under the rules of the 111th Congress (2009-2010), may preside over, and vote in, Committee of the Whole subject to an immediate revote in the House if their votes are decisive.
A proposed rules change for the 112th Congress (2011-2012) released by the House Republican leadership in December of 2010 would, if subsequently adopted by the House, eliminate the right of the Delegates and Resident Commissioner to vote in, or preside over, the Committee of the Whole.
This report will be updated as circumstances warrant.
The offices of the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico and the Delegates to the House of Representatives from American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are created by statute, not by the Constitution. Because they represent territories and associated jurisdictions, not states, they are not Members of Congress and do not possess the same parliamentary rights afforded Members. This report examines the parliamentary rights of the Delegates and the Resident Commissioner in legislative committee, in the House, and in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union.
IN LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE
Under Clause 3 of Rule III, the Delegates and the Resident Commissioner are elected to serve on standing committees in the same manner as Representatives and have the same parliamentary powers and privileges as Representatives there--the right to question witnesses, to debate, offer amendments, vote, offer motions, raise points of order, include additional views in committee reports, accrue seniority, and chair committees and subcommittees. The same rule authorizes the Speaker to appoint Delegates and the Resident Commissioner to conference committees as well as to service on select and joint committees.
IN THE HOUSE
The Delegates and the Resident Commissioner may not vote in or preside over the House. While they take an oath to uphold the Constitution, they are not included on the Clerk's roll of Members-elect, and may not vote for Speaker. They may not file or sign discharge petitions. They may, however, sponsor and cosponsor legislation, participate in debate, including managing time, and offer any motion which a Representative may make, except the motion to reconsider. A Delegate or Resident Commissioner may raise points of order and questions of personal privilege, call a Member to order, appeal rulings of the chair, file reports for committees, object to the consideration of a bill, and move impeachment proceedings.
IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE ON THE STATE OF THE UNION
Under Rule III and Rule XVIII, as adopted in the 111th Congress (2009-2010), when the House is sitting as the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, the Delegates and Resident Commissioner have the same right to vote as Representatives, subject to immediate reconsideration in the House when their recorded votes ``have been decisive'' in the Committee. House rules also authorize the Speaker to appoint a Delegate or the Resident Commissioner to preside as Chairman of the Committee of the Whole.
The rules of the 111th Congress are identical in effect to those in force in the 110th Congress (2007-2008) and before that, in the 103rd Congress (1993-1994), which permitted the Delegates and the Resident Commissioner to vote in, and to preside over, the Committee of the Whole. These provisions were stricken from the rules as adopted in the 104th Congress (1995-1996) and remained out of effect until readopted in the 110th Congress. At the time of the adoption of the 1993 rule, then-Minority Leader Robert H. Michel and 12 other Representatives filed suit against the Clerk of the House and the territorial delegates, seeking a declaration that the rule was unconstitutional. The constitutionality of the rule was ultimately upheld on appeal based on its inclusion of the mechanism for automatic reconsideration of votes in the House. A draft of the proposed rules package for the 112th Congress (2011-2012) released by the House Republican leadership on December 23, 2010, would amend Rules III and XVIII to eliminate the ability of the Delegates and the Resident Commissioner to vote in, or preside over, the Committee of the Whole.
The votes of the Delegates and the Resident Commissioner were decisive, and thus subject to automatic revote by the House, on three occasions in the 103rd Congress. There were no instances identified in the 110th Congress in which the votes of the Delegates and the Resident Commissioner were decisive. In the 111th Congress, the votes of the delegates were decisive, and subject to an automatic revote, on one occasion.
The rule governing voting in the Committee of the Whole by Delegates and the Resident Commissioner has not been interpreted to mean that any recorded vote with a difference of six votes or less is subject to automatic reconsideration. In determining whether the votes of the Delegates and the Resident Commissioner were decisive, the Chair follows a ``but for'' test--namely, would the result of a vote have been different if the Delegates and the Commissioner had not voted? If the votes of the Delegates and the Resident Commissioner on a question are determined to be decisive by this standard, the committee automatically rises and the Speaker puts the question to a vote. The vote is first put by voice, and any Representative may, with a sufficient second, obtain a record vote. Once the final result of the vote is announced, the Committee of the Whole automatically resumes its sitting.
Ms. SLAUGHTER. I yield for the purpose of a unanimous consent request to the gentleman from the Northern Mariana Islands (Mr. Sablan).
(Mr. SABLAN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
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Mr. Speaker, the people of the Northern Mariana Islands are citizens of the United States. And the Constitution declares we are ``subject to the jurisdiction thereof.'' But today the majority's Rules exclude us from even symbolic representation in our government.
The Pledge to America declared the majority would fight those who whisper America's standing as the world leader of democracy is ending. But today the majority breaks its own Pledge with Rules that take away the vote from 5 million Americans.
What a sad way to begin this new Congress.
Ms. SLAUGHTER. I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer), the minority whip.
Secondly, I oppose this rule, as do my friends from the various territories, from Puerto Rico, from the Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, and the Pacific Islands (sic). We talked about, during the course of the campaign, listening to people. We have almost 5 million people who are American citizens. How do we listen to them? We listen to them when their Representatives put their green or red on the board.
I will be introducing a resolution tomorrow, which will be referred to the Rules Committee, and I hope you will consider it.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Latham). The time of the gentleman from Maryland has expired.
Ms. SLAUGHTER. I yield the gentleman 1 additional minute.
Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentle lady.
I was telling my friend, the chairman of the Rules Committee, congratulations to him for his obtaining the chairmanship. A thoughtful and hardworking Member of this House will chair the Rules Committee. I am going to be introducing an amendment to the rules that, my presumption is, we will adopt today which will return this symbol of respect, this symbol of inclusion, this symbol of colleagueship, if you will, to our six representatives of American citizens.
I hope my friend will hold hearings on that. I would like to testify on that issue.
And I say to my friends that I hope we reject these rules so that we can… ensure the inclusion, in a real and meaningful way, but not constitutionally objectionable way, our friends who represent the District of Columbia and our territories.
The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were--yeas 238, nays 188, not voting 7
See also: http://cruciansinfocus.com/2011/01/31/losing-a-vote-really/#more-9473