That old trope about it being better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Eleanor Holmes Norton isn’t buying it.
The District’s non-voting congressional delegate is pushing to get a little bit less non-voting by winning back a right she once had: to vote in the House of Representatives’ Committee of the Whole.
“Having a vote and losing it is more painful than fighting for it in the first place,” Norton said at a press conference today in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Back in the 103rd Congress, in 1993, the District’s delegate—-then also Norton—-won the right to vote in the Committee of the Whole, which consists of the entire House and recommends amendments to legislation. Then, when Republicans took control of Congress, they stripped that power. Democrats added it back when they returned to control in 2007, and Republicans took it away again upon assuming the majority in 2011.
It’s a very small step we’re talking about: Just as now, Norton wouldn’t have the ability to vote on actual final legislation or amendments. She’d simply gain an additional shred of official legitimacy in an institution in which she has little actual power.
But that didn’t stop her from making the proclamation with fanfare. Flanked by Mayor Vince Gray and officials from DC Vote and the D.C. Office of Veterans Affairs, she called her intended change to House rules “a vote that speaks to bipartisanship, to regard for the citizens of the home of the Congress, and to the majority’s own principles regarding taxing the American people.”
Gray pointed to new census figures showing that D.C. is now larger than both Wyoming and Vermont to argue that the city deserves greater voting rights. “When you do the math, we have a population now that’s larger than two other states,” he said. “But year in, year out, day in, day out, we have to keep waging the fight to get what the residents of the District of Columbia deserve.
Despite its limited impact, approval of the measure is unlikely; the GOP, which took her vote away in the first place, still controls the House. I asked Norton if she’d received signals of support from any of her Republican colleagues. She said no, although she hopes her introduction of the measure will “say to my colleagues that they have shown a disposition to move toward the District.” She plans to reach out to the Republican House leadership before the members return from vacation.
Photo by Aaron Wiener