Norton Requests That Her Committee of the Whole Vote Be Maintained in 112th Congress
November 15, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC - In advance of new members being sworn into Congress, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has sent a request to Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who will likely be the next Speaker of the House, to retain in the House rules for the 112th Congress the right of the District of Columbia delegate to vote in the Committee of the Whole. Norton's request is only for the District, whose residents are the only Americans who pay federal income taxes but have no votes in the Senate or House. She emphasized that the vote in the Committee of the Whole has been upheld by federal courts and is not a vote on final legislation.
Both the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit have held that the delegate vote is consistent with congressional authority under Article I of the U.S. Constitution. In Michel v. Anderson, the Court of Appeals noted the longstanding practice of the House to allow delegates to vote in standing committees and found that the Committee of the Whole vote was not constitutionally distinct from that practice.
Norton said, "The opportunity to vote in committees, now including the Committee of the Whole, is significant to the American citizens who live in the nation's capital and pay full federal taxes annually to support our federal government." Unlike residents of the territories, who do not have federal income tax obligations, District residents have the same obligations of citizenship as the residents of the states, including service in every war, beginning with the Revolutionary War.The Congresswoman first secured a vote in the Committee of the Whole during the 103rd Congress, when Democrats were in the majority. Norton submitted a legal memorandum and requested and obtained the right to vote in the Committee of the Whole for the residents of the District of Columbia. The Democrats sent the matter to outside attorneys and experts, who confirmed that the delegate vote would be constitutional, and the House acted. Following a Republican challenge, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Court of Appeals both confirmed the constitutional authority of the House to allow delegate voting in the Committee of the Whole, as Congress had long done in standing committees created by the House. When Republicans took control of the House in the 104th Congress, they took away the only vote on the House floor the District of Columbia had had in the more than 200 years of the city's existence. Norton is looking to Republican friends to help retain her vote.