FRIDAY, 07 JANUARY 2011 02:56 BY THERESE HART | VARIETY NEWS STAFF
* Constitutionality of delegate voting rights raised
Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo is joined by Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio and her granddaughter, Nicole Bordallo Nelson during her swearing-in ceremony in the 112th Congress. Contributed photo
Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo yesterday took her oath of office in the 112th Congress during a ceremony led by Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio.
But even as Bordallo was sworn in, the new Republican majority in the House worked to terminate the “symbolic” voting rights that Guam and other insular areas enjoyed in the previous Democrat-controlled Congress.
Bordallo, joined her colleagues from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in opposing the passage of H. Res. 5, the rules governing operations of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 112th Congress.
Over the past several weeks, Republican leaders crafted a rules package during the House Republican Conference that, among other provisions, would rescind the ability of delegates to cast symbolic votes on the floor during Committee of the Whole proceedings.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia was joined on the House floor by Bordallo, Congressman Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, Congresswoman Donna Christensen of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Congressman Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico, and Congressman Kilili Sablan of the CNMI as she made a motion to refer the rules package to a committee that would investigate the constitutionality of delegate voting rights.
Congresswoman Norton's motion was put on hold, by a vote of 225 yes votes to 188 no votes. H. Res. 5 eventually passed last evening by a vote of 240 yes votes to 191 no votes thus depriving the Delegates and Resident Representative from the right to vote in Committee of the Whole.
Delegates were first granted voting privileges in 1993 under the leadership of Speaker of the House Tom Foley of Washington in the 103rd Congress. The Republican majority removed delegate voting privileges in the 104th Congress.
Subsequently, the 110th Congress, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, restored those voting rights. This is the second time that the ability of delegates to cast votes has been rescinded.
"The Republican rules package makes this body less transparent and less responsive to the American people," Bordallo said.
"By obligating the Delegates to take public stands, our limited vote showed our constituents where we stood on important issues. Our vote also helped ensure legislation considered by the House took our constituents into account. When an amendment came forward last Congress regarding the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo into the U.S, the territories were initially excluded from the prohibition. Our vote compelled the House to address our concerns. This is precisely how representative democracy is meant to work,” Bordallo said.
“Further, men and women from the territories and the District of Columbia serve and have died for our country in the Armed Forces to protect our way of life. Yet, despite all the rhetoric of restoring democracy to the House of Representatives, the Republicans’ first act is to deny us a basic function of democracy - the right to represent our constituents and vote in the House of Representatives," she added.
As her first legislative act in the 112th Congress, Congresswoman Bordallo re-introduced the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act hours after taking her oath of office.
The Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act was re-introduced as H.R. 44 and is identical to compromise language that was reached during negotiations on H.R. 6523, the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (FY11 NDAA).
In the 111th Congress, Guam war claims was removed from the final defense spending bill due to objections by a group of fiscally-conservative Republicans in the U.S. Senate, said Bordallo.
"The fight to bring closure to the issue of Guam war claims continues in the 112th Congress with introduction of the compromise version of H.R. 44.
"The passage of the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act continues to remain my top legislative priority as we begin the 112th Congress.
Introduction of H.R. 44 continues to build on progress and momentum of the legislation in the 111th Congress.”