The District may not know which bright-eyed, bushy-tailed freshman Republican will be using all 601,723 of us as political props next year, but one piece of bad news from a Home Rule standpoint has already arrived from Capitol Hill.
For the last four years, under Democratic rule, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has been able to vote on many procedural matters and amendments, even if she can’t have a say on final passage. That’s because Democrats gave Norton and other non-voting delegates to Congress a vote in the Committee of the Whole House, which, for parliamentary procedure reasons, is often the form in which the body acts on legislation.
Say goodbye to all that, though. New rules the GOP leadership is proposing would strip Norton’s vote in that committee. (She’ll still be able to vote in the three committees she sits on.) A spokesman for the incoming Republican leadership, Brendan Buck, explains:
It’s our view, and that of the Constitution, that only members of the House are eligible to vote in the House. In every meaningful way, the committee of the whole is the same as the full House, and therefore voting should be reserved for members.
Norton’s aides haven’t returned a call for comment yet.
The new House rules will also require the Constitution to be read aloud on Jan. 6, for what that’s worth.
Update: Norton’s office has gotten around to releasing a statement:
We have learned that the draft of the new House rules for the 112th Congress does not include a vote in the Committee of the Whole for the District of Columbia. Upon learning this information this morning, I called Speaker-designate John Boehner but he was not in. I have also asked for a meeting with him.
It would be very painful to have to inform residents that the only vote they have ever had on the House floor has been taken away. We have long understood the position of many of our Republican colleagues on the full House vote. However, we had hoped that the rules for our delegate vote would be retained next Congress for a number of reasons. There has been a definitive federal court ruling upholding the constitutionality of this vote. The delegates have repeatedly exercised this vote for years with no adverse effects on the House, with only positive effects for the federal taxpaying residents of the District.
Last month I explained in a letter to Mr. Boehner the unique offense residents have felt during the years they have paid taxes with no say whatsoever on the House floor. Residents have had to cope with no vote in Congress, but they have expressed particular consternation at the thought of losing the only vote they now possess.
We will be making every effort to retain our vote in the Committee of the Whole, and to convince our Republican colleagues that this vote benefits the reputation of the ‘people’s House’ by maximizing the participation of members to the greater benefit of the American people.