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Posted at 11:33 AM ET, 01/04/2011

Gray, Norton protest loss of 'Committee of the Whole' House vote

Updated 4:48 p.m.
Vincent Gray made his first public trip to Capitol Hill as mayor Tuesday, joining Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) at a pep rally to protest the new House GOP majority's plan to strip the District of the one voting right it has in Congress.

On Wednesday, the House will vote on a Republican-authored rules package that will take away the ability of delegates and resident commissioners to vote in the Committee of the Whole, a term that describes when the full House becomes a committee for the purpose of considering legislation. That right -- which Democrats have granted when they have controlled the House -- allowed Norton and her fellow delegates to vote on amendments to tax and spending bills, though the privilege could be seen as symbolic since a delegate's vote was not permitted to be the deciding one.

At a pep rally Tuesday morning in the high-ceilinged marble foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building, Gray (D) gave a fiery speech to an assembly of D.C. officials and activists, imploring them to fight "to preserve what little democracy we have."

Calling the impending Republican move an "absolutely outrageous insult," Gray asked for "600,000 warriors on the Hill" to fight for the cause of D.C. voting rights.

Speaking to reporters later, Gray compared District residents' fight to the American Revolution and said D.C. must be willing to escalate the battle. Asked whether he would be willing to get arrested for the cause of voting rights, Gray said, "I'm willing to do whatever it takes."

Norton, for her part, warned that Wednesday's vote could just be the opening salvo by Republicans in what could become "a full-scale war on home rule for the District of Columbia."

"When they strip you of the only vote you have ever had on the House floor, will you take it lying down?" Norton asked the crowd. "No!" they shouted back.

Organized by DC Vote, Tuesday's pep rally was the prelude to an organized protest, with volunteers fanning out to House offices to deliver letters and demand to speak to aides about the committee of the whole issue. The advocacy group also encouraged its members to call the personal office of incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to register their opposition to the move.

"I suspect he'll get hundreds of calls," predicted DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka.

Tuesday afternoon, after some activists had visited Boehner's office, Boehner spokesman Cory Fritz said : "Speaker-designate Boehner appreciates that DC Vote stopped by today to share their concerns. He continues to believe, however, that delegates should not vote in the committee of the whole because they constitutionally cannot vote on the House floor."

By  |  11:33 AM ET, 01/04/2011

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