The House voted Wednesday to strip Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and other delegates of their limited voting rights, and critics think it’s just the start of Congressional intervention in D.C. affairs.
A GOP package of rules changes for the 112th Congress strikes the right of the five delegates and the resident commissioner from Puerto Rico to vote in the Committee of the Whole. Republicans argued the votes were unconstitutional, and the package was approved in a resolution Wednesday.
Norton protested and offered a motion to refer the package to a special committee for review, but it was tabled, 225-188.
“With this motion, we formally begin the protest that will be necessary to salvage what D.C. has won in the past,” Norton said in a statement. “We will need the help of the top elected District officials and District residents, because we are sure this is only the first attack on our rights.”
Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) suggested that the change could mark the start of a GOP effort to limit the District’s autonomy. “It doesn’t look good” for D.C., said Serrano, who was chairman in the 111th Congress of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which has the power of the purse for the District.
Other top Democrats protested the change, and Rules ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said her “head is spinning.”
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) promised to fight to reinstate the delegates’ votes for “my friends from Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and the Pacific Islands.”
“I will be introducing a resolution tomorrow which will be referred to the Rules Committee that I hope they will consider,” the Maryland Democrat added. “An exemption to the rules we will adopt today that will return this symbol of respect, this symbol of inclusion, this symbol of colleagueship.”
It is unclear whether Hoyer has the votes to pass such a resolution.
“Democracy took a step backward today,” according to DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka.
“Rather than putting partisan politics aside and letting this established practice stand, [Speaker John] Boehner has denied 600,000 Americans living in Washington, D.C., the only vote they have in their own governance,” Zherka said in a statement. “Given the rhetoric among Members in the new majority, D.C. residents can expect more Congressional efforts to undermine D.C.’s local democracy. Washingtonians must prepare for that fight.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.