What: All Issues : Human Rights & Civil Liberties : Enfranchising the Disenfranchised/Voting Rights : House rules change to allow limited voting rights for the delegates from the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories (H. Res. 93)/On passage
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House rules change to allow limited voting rights for the delegates from the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories (H. Res. 93)/On passage
house Roll Call 57     Jan 24, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

This vote was on final passage of a resolution to give limited voting rights on the House floor to delegates from the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories.

The measure sought to change House rules to give the four delegates from Washington, D.C., Guam, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa and the resident commissioner from Puerto Rico the right to vote when the House meets in the Committee of the Whole, which the House does when debating and voting on amendments to legislation. If the delegates' votes were to decide the winning margin in any particular vote, however, an automatic revote would occur and the delegates would be excluded. The delegates would also be unable to cast votes for final passage on legislation.

Because this was an internal House matter, the change could be effected by a change in House rules.

The delegates had been given similar voting rights in 1993 under Democratic control of the House, but the privileges were reversed by Republicans when they took power in 1995. According to Congressional Quarterly, of the 404 times delegates were eligible to vote in that two-year period, only three times did their votes prove decisive, triggering an automatic revote; twice the outcome was reversed.

Republicans opposed the rules change this year for a number of reasons, including questions about its constitutionality, despite the fact that the voting privileges for delegates had survived court challenge in the mid-1990s. Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) also suggested that Democrats were simply aiming to give the appearance of having more votes on their side, as all but one of the delegates are Democrats.

"I have to wonder if these same objections would be raised . . . if there were four Republican delegates and one Democratic delegate," replied Del. Donna M.C. Christensen (D-Virgin Is.).

Critics of the change also pointed out that four of the delegates represent territories that don't pay federal income taxes, although residents of District of Columbia do. The resolution's supporters countered that residents of the four territories do pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, as well as excise taxes.

By an almost completely party-line vote, the resolution prevailed. All but one Democrat present voted for the change, and all but one Republican present voted against it. Thus, by a vote of 226 to 191 the House voted to modify its internal rules to extend limited floor voting privileges to delegates from the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories.

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