Norton's plea to Boehner, to keep minor voting right in House, fails

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 6:10 PM

What little right to vote Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has on the House floor will be gone next month, as Republicans have decided to take away the right of delegates and resident commissioners to vote on some amendments.

When Democrats have controlled the House, they have allowed Norton and her fellow delegates to vote in the Committee of the Whole, a parliamentary term that describes when the full House becomes a committee for the purposes of considering legislation. That has allowed Norton to cast votes on amendments to tax and spending bills, although technically her vote could be considered symbolic because it does not count if it is the deciding one on an issue.

Republicans took away that right when they controlled the House from 1995 to 2007, and Norton said she had hoped they would not do so again. She wrote a letter to presumptive House speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) last month, pleading to keep a privilege that "is significant to the American citizens who live in the nation's capital and pay full federal taxes annually to support our federal government."

But her plea appears to have fallen on deaf ears. House Republicans released a summary Wednesday of their proposed changes to House rules, and the summary includes the line, "Delegates and resident commissioners (those not representing states) will not be able to vote in the committee of the whole."

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Norton said that upon learning of the planned rules change, she had tried unsuccessfully to reach Boehner by phone and would also seek a meeting with him to discuss the issue. She also noted that a federal court has previously upheld the constitutionality of delegates' voting in the Committee of the Whole in the face of Republican-led legal challenges.

"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," Norton said.

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