House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland has introduced legislation to allow the V.I. congressional representative as well as those of the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico to vote in the Committee of the Whole House, Hoyer’s office announced Thursday.
Democrats did so in the 110th and 111th Congress, without legal controversy, but that privilege was revoked by the Republican rules package for the 112th Congress and again for the 113th Congress, according to Hoyer’s office.
The House is controlled by the Republican Party, which has not traditionally been sympathetic to giving the territories a vote, leaving the measure’s prospects doubtful.
"It is vital that the voices of the 5 million Americans represented by delegates and the resident commissioner in the U.S. House of Representatives are heard in our legislative process," Hoyer said in the statement. "By changing the House rules to silence these voices in the 112th Congress and again in this new Congress, House Republicans are doing a disservice to our greatest traditions of political inclusion and common-sense, democratic principles.”
“I strongly urge them to reconsider and to allow the delegates and resident commissioner to vote in the Committee of the Whole House," he wrote.
Hoyer’s statement quotes V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen as saying, "It is ironic that the United States is the leading voice calling for people around the world to have more, not less, say in the governance of their countries, while the rules of the House of Representatives disenfranchise the representatives of American citizens living in U.S. Insular Areas and the District of Colombia."
District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, American Samoa Delegate Eni Faleomavaega, Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, Northern Mariana Islands Delegate Gregorio Sablan and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi also weighed in, in support of the measure, in the statement from Hoyer’s office.