US House  amends rules to give nonstate legislators some voting rights

US House amends rules to give nonstate legislators some voting rights

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] Wednesday passed a resolution [text] which would amend House rules to grant limited voting rights to federal lawmakers from five US nonstate territories. The resolution, introduced January 19, would extend certain Congressional voting rights to delegates from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, to allow:

each Delegate and the Resident Commissioner . . . the same powers and privileges as Members of the House. Each Delegate and the Resident Commissioner shall be elected to serve on standing committees in the same manner as Members of the House and shall possess in such committees the same powers and privileges as the other members of the committee.

Such powers would be restricted, however, when delegate votes are decisive:

Whenever a recorded vote on any question has been decided by a margin within which the votes cast by the Delegates and the Resident Commissioner have been decisive, the Committee of the Whole shall rise and the Speaker shall put such question de novo without intervening motion.

The measure has been criticized by Republicans as a political maneuver to bring more Democratic votes into the House, and also as permitting representation without taxation, since only citizens of the District of Columbia pay federal income taxes. Advocates say the resolution promotes the legal inclusion of all Americans, maintaining that there are citizens from all five territories serving in the US military. Democrats pushed the same rule through during their last period of House control, from 1993 to 1995. Republicans then sued to overturn the rule, but it was affirmed on appeal. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi welcomed the result of Wednesday's vote [press release], saying "The House is ordained to be a marketplace of ideas. We should work to expand democracy, not limit it." AP has more.