Congress Gives DC “Practice” Vote.

Think of it like a learner’s permit. Or a training bra. Or maybe like training wheels.

The House of Representatives has awarded DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton a symbolic vote in floor matters for the first time since 1993. As part of the Committee of the Whole, both Norton and the representatives from American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam will get to cast a vote when the House is meeting in that fashion.

If, like me, you haven’t the slightest what the Committee of the Whole is, let me get out our old friend Thomas to do some ‘splainin’:

The Committee of the Whole is not a House committee in the usual sense, but a committee consisting of all members of the House of Representatives — a parliamentary construct to expedite House action. … Procedures in the Committee of the Whole expedite the consideration of legislation because of its smaller quorum requirement, the prohibition of certain motions, and five-minute rule for debate on amendments. These procedures allow more members to participate in the debate on a measure and offer amendments than the procedure in the full House.

After the House adopts a resolution setting the guidelines for considering a bill, the House convenes as the Committee of the Whole, and the Speaker passes the gavel to a chairman, a member of the majority party selected by the Speaker, who presides over the Committee while it is considering the bill. …

The Committee of the Whole cannot pass a bill. Instead, when it is done amending the measure, “the committee rises” and its Chair reports its recommendations on the bill back to the full House, where it is voted on (pass or fail), or recommitted (sent back to the legislative committee from which it was reported).

So, Delegate Holmes Norton can now vote in the Cmte of the Whole, which can debate bills, but not enact them into law. So, DC is pretty much without real representation. Still.

1 Comment so far

  1. Paulo (unregistered) on January 25th, 2007 @ 9:39 am

    Purely symbolic. Key detail summarized in the WaPo story: “If the delegates’ votes provide the margin of victory, their votes are thrown out and representatives revote without them.”

    So our vote only officially matters if it doesn’t have a real effect on the total count. The funny part is that the Republicans are attacking even that kindness to the nonstates.



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