- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2007

House lawmakers yesterday passed a resolution allowing D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and territorial delegates to vote on legislative amendments, despite opposition from Republicans who called the rule change an unconstitutional power grab by the Democratic majority.

“Who’s next? Howard Dean?” Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, asked on the House floor yesterday, referring to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former governor of Vermont. “He has a significant constituency. Why not let Howard Dean have a seat in the House of Representatives and a vote in the Committee of the Whole?”

The mostly symbolic resolution, which passed 226-191, will allow Mrs. Norton and other Democratic delegates from American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands — as well as the Republican resident commissioner of Puerto Rico — to vote on amendments to legislation in the House Committee of the Whole, but not on a bill’s final passage.

However, lawmakers would take a new vote without the delegates’ ballots if they cast the deciding votes.

“The issue today is simply this: Do you believe American citizens who live in territories have certain rights?” said Rep. Jose E. Serrano, New York Democrat. “I believe they have full rights.”

The delegates had voting privileges in the Committee of the Whole during the Democratic-controlled 103rd Congress, but the new Republican majority withdrew them in 1995.

Mrs. Norton yesterday repeated her support for the rule change but said in an impassioned speech on the House floor that it is a far cry from giving the District full congressional voting rights.

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, in a statement, also called the resolution “insufficient.”

“Do it and get it done,” Mrs. Norton said. “But it is less than the full vote that the District of Columbia deserves.”

Mrs. Norton, in her ninth term, is pushing for early passage of a bill she introduced with Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, that would add seats in the House for the District and Utah.

Mr. Davis did not support the rule change yesterday, calling it “grandstanding” and saying it distracted from the real issue of achieving D.C. voting rights.

“This is a sham,” Mr. Davis said. “And I’m not going to be a part of it.”

House Republicans also have accused Democrats of simply wanting to pad their vote totals with the resolution.

During the debate yesterday, they called the measure “a remarkable abuse of power” and “representation without taxation” — a play on the District’s pro-voting rights license-plate slogan that reads “Taxation Without Representation.”

Citizens in the territories, excluding the District, do not pay federal income taxes.

“This change in the House rules is an end run around the United States Constitution,” said Rep. David Dreier, California Republican and ranking minority member of the House Rules Committee. “It is the ultimate in illusions.”

Republican also wore stickers of Charlie the Tuna — the cartoon mascot tuna for StarKist Tuna — with the slogan “Something’s Fishy,” a reference to the House’s passage of its minimum-wage bill without raising the wage in American Samoa.

The exemption fueled insinuations that Delegate Eni F.H. Faleomavaega of American Samoa brokered a deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and did not oppose excluding his islands from the wage increase in order to obtain the symbolic vote.

“Absolutely not, there was no such deal,” Mr. Faleomavaega said, noting that his district’s wages already come under regular labor review and its economy could not handle a wage increase.

Democrats insisted that “we have done our best to accommodate the minority on this rule,” and said the delegates deserved the symbolic power because of their constituents’ military service.

Members of the majority party also emphasized that the minor change is not a substitute for congressional voting rights in the District.

“D.C. deserves to have full voting rights,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat and a member of the Rules Committee. “This is the least I think we can do to restore some modicum of representation to millions of Americans.”

• Charles Hurt contributed to this article.

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