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Posted at 11:33 AM ET, 01/ 4/2011

Gray, Norton protest loss of 'Committee of the Whole' House vote

By Ben Pershing

Updated 4:48 p.m.
Vincent Gray made his first public trip to Capitol Hill as mayor Tuesday, joining Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) at a pep rally to protest the new House GOP majority's plan to strip the District of the one voting right it has in Congress.

On Wednesday, the House will vote on a Republican-authored rules package that will take away the ability of delegates and resident commissioners to vote in the Committee of the Whole, a term that describes when the full House becomes a committee for the purpose of considering legislation. That right -- which Democrats have granted when they have controlled the House -- allowed Norton and her fellow delegates to vote on amendments to tax and spending bills, though the privilege could be seen as symbolic since a delegate's vote was not permitted to be the deciding one.

At a pep rally Tuesday morning in the high-ceilinged marble foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building, Gray (D) gave a fiery speech to an assembly of D.C. officials and activists, imploring them to fight "to preserve what little democracy we have."

Calling the impending Republican move an "absolutely outrageous insult," Gray asked for "600,000 warriors on the Hill" to fight for the cause of D.C. voting rights.

Speaking to reporters later, Gray compared District residents' fight to the American Revolution and said D.C. must be willing to escalate the battle. Asked whether he would be willing to get arrested for the cause of voting rights, Gray said, "I'm willing to do whatever it takes."

Norton, for her part, warned that Wednesday's vote could just be the opening salvo by Republicans in what could become "a full-scale war on home rule for the District of Columbia."

"When they strip you of the only vote you have ever had on the House floor, will you take it lying down?" Norton asked the crowd. "No!" they shouted back.

Organized by DC Vote, Tuesday's pep rally was the prelude to an organized protest, with volunteers fanning out to House offices to deliver letters and demand to speak to aides about the committee of the whole issue. The advocacy group also encouraged its members to call the personal office of incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to register their opposition to the move.

"I suspect he'll get hundreds of calls," predicted DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka.

Tuesday afternoon, after some activists had visited Boehner's office, Boehner spokesman Cory Fritz said : "Speaker-designate Boehner appreciates that DC Vote stopped by today to share their concerns. He continues to believe, however, that delegates should not vote in the committee of the whole because they constitutionally cannot vote on the House floor."

By Ben Pershing  | January 4, 2011; 11:33 AM ET
Categories:  Ben Pershing, Congressional Oversight, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Vincent C. Gray, Voting Rights  
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I'm a DC resident, tax-payer, and voter, but an Independent (a real one, unlike Mike Brown.) I will not support full voting representation for DC in the House until the DC un-Democrats start practicing democracy for DC residents. Their totalitarian control of the electoral process which limits election to those who are deep insiders to their party needs to be ended. The very idea that the DC Democratic Committee should select the interim replacement for a Council member is anti-democratic. We need non-partisan, general primary and run-off elections in DC. The parties have no place in the local politics of the city. Until the paranoid un-Democrats like Norton and Gray relinquish their stranglehold on the people of the District, there should be no no voting representation in the US House for DC.

Posted by: blankspace | January 4, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Home rule has been a total disaster for the city. Since home rule, the city has been unable in the past to pick up trash, tow abandoned cars, pay police officers, make necessary road repairs, and the list goes on. The local politicans are unable to properly govern the Capital city! When the city belonged to the FEDS and they wrote the checks, these services were handled correctly. Many of the local politicans in DC are almost retarded!

Posted by: HotelGuest | January 4, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm just not able to conjur up any sympathy when the District had the opportunity for a full (read: irrevocable)seat in the house delivered on a silver platter, but turned down the opportunity to keep onerous, outdated, irrelevant and ineffective gun laws. Didn't the Representative, City Council, and Mayor read about and/or live through the last republican congress when their vote was taken?? Didn't they learn then? How does your precious but useless gun laws look now?

Posted by: shadeau | January 4, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Hotelguest...Please when the three commissioners governed this city it was a dump. DC took on responsibilities that no other city has to worry about. We were never fairly compensated for these services. Also what the hell did the USA look like the first 37 years of its existence?
When the USA first embarked on their war against British it was b/c of being TAXED to death with no vote.

Not about if American picked up trash, towed abandoned cars, pay police officers, make necessary road repairs etc..

Now if you don't think that DC is fit to run it's self then don't take my taxes.

It wasn't about wheather we were good enough to

Posted by: thelildiva4u | January 4, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Any city with only $1.50 per mile on a taxicab meter doesn't deserve voting rights.

Posted by: starclimber9 | January 5, 2011 12:36 AM | Report abuse

It is shameful that we are treated as subjects rather than as citizens. When I read in the Declaration of Independence that "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal...(and) that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just position from the consent of the governed..." I must question that we residents of the District have given our consent to be treated like subjects, at best.

I say we have not, and therefore suggest that we undertake a referendum to determine whether our lack of representation has been done to us without our consent. The Declaration of Independence specifically says that government's power is just when it is derived by the consent of the governed. I say our second-class government has not been derived by our consent. There is no part of the Declaration of Independence more profound, fellow Americans. If we are not permitted the same rights as other citizens – and representation as the most basic of rights in a democracy – then we do not live under a democracy, and certainly do not function as citizens who have given our consent to the form of government under which we struggle without voting representation.

The referendum would confirm that we are subjects. A War was fought 150 years ago that should have settled the question of equality once and for all. But it didn't for us. Is it acceptable to be treated as subjects? Certainly not, and the Declaration of Independence speaks to this point.

We should hold a peaceful referendum to publicly and officially deny our consent to being treated unequally. This would give us the basis to demand that our full measure of rights be secured as citizens of a state. Nothing less. God bless the Declaration of Independence, for it will make our case.

Posted by: MmeMagpie1 | January 5, 2011 5:35 AM | Report abuse

Eleanor Holmes Norton....isn't she the person that would not pay taxes until she wanted to run for elected office?

Posted by: priveye | January 5, 2011 6:57 AM | Report abuse

Unlike some of the other commentators, I believe firmly that the District should enjoy equal rights of citizenship in our democracy. California is going bankrupt and Louisiana abandoned its citizens to Hurricane Katrina -- yet no one demanded revocation of their constitutional rights because of those challenges. I'm astonished at the contempt that some of these commentators have for their fellow citizens.

But with that said, our vote in the Committee of the Whole (COW) is pure symbolism and is not worth fighting for. Our vote counts only when it doesn't matter, i.e. when it is not decisive. That is an insult to all of us. We should use this issue to educate both District residents and the nation on our colonial status, rather than fighting for this absurd procedure.

Posted by: keshinil1 | January 5, 2011 8:09 AM | Report abuse

We really MUST think about jury nullification if and when we are called to sit on a federal jury in the District of Columbia. Morally, how can anyone pass judgement on a fellow citizen if we did not have any participation in the passage of a law that someone is accused of breaking?

Posted by: johnklenert | January 5, 2011 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Pershing babbled: "Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) at a pep rally to protest the new House GOP majority's plan to strip the District of the one voting right it has in Congress."
Umm, D.C. has NO constructional right to voting rights in the Congress. The current set up is unconstitutional. What are you smoking Ben?

Posted by: illogicbuster | January 5, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

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