February 14, 2011 Policy

House in Committee as a Whole

11M10C

American Bar Association

Bar Association of the District of Columbia
Section of International Rights and Responsibilities

Adopted by the House of Delegates
February 14, 2011

Resolution

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges the United States House of Representatives to restore the right of D.C. citizens to have their elected Congresswoman vote on proposed legislation considered by the House in Committee of the Whole.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges the United States House of Representatives to restore the right of citizens in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands to have their elected Congressional representatives vote on proposed legislation considered by the House in the Committee of the Whole.

Report

On January 5, 2011, the House of Representatives adopted a set of Rules for the new 112th Congress, which eliminated the provision of the prior Congress’ Rules authorizing the D.C. Congresswoman to vote in the House Committee of the Whole.

Because the House of Representatives often sits as a Committee of the Whole to consider and vote upon important pieces of legislation, the Rules change deprived D.C. citizens of an important right. As the Congresswoman from D.C., Eleanor Holmes Norton, noted:

“The opportunity to vote in . . . 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.”

Congresswoman Norton urged Speaker-designate Boehner, before the new House Rules were adopted, to refrain from placing D.C. citizens in a position where

“the only vote they have ever had on the House floor has been taken away . . . . Residents [of D.C.] have had to cope with no vote in Congress, but they have expressed particular consternation at the thought of losing the only vote they now possess.”

Nevertheless, Rep. Norton’s motion for the House to refer to a committee for further study the proposed new Rule abrogating her right to vote in Committee of the Whole, was tabled by the House on a party-line vote of 225-188; and the new Rules package (H. Res. 5, 112th Congress) was then adopted on a party-line vote of 240-191.

The ABA has longstanding policy, adopted in 1999 on motion of the BADC, for the District of Columbia to possess full voting representation in the House of Representatives. Legislation to confer that right passed the House of Representatives in the last Congress -- with the ABA submitting testimony in support of the bill to the House Judiciary Committee -- but the bill was not enacted by the Senate.

Consistent with the existing ABA policy, the Bar Association of the District of Columbia now asks that the House of  Representatives at least not abrogate the more limited right, which the D.C. Representative had possessed, to vote in the House Committee of the Whole. A Resolution to preserve that right, by amending the new House Rule to restore the 111th Congress’ Rule on this point, has been submitted to the House by Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland (H. Res. 24, 112th Congress).

It is particularly unfortunate for D.C. citizens that their right to be represented in the House Committee of the Whole has apparently been made to depend on which political party controls the House of Representatives, and writes its Rules, in any given session. There should be a bipartisan commitment to confer a continuing right of representation for the tax-paying citizens of the District of Columbia, regardless of which national party has won a majority of seats in the most recent congressional elections.

So long as the citizens of the District of Columbia are denied such representation, they truly suffer “Taxation without Representation,” in violation of the principles upon which this country was conceived and founded.

Respectfully submitted,

Annamaria Steward, President
Bar Association of the District of Columbia