Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he opposed the Republican proposed rules for the 112th Congress, which denies the Delegates and the Resident Commissioner a chance to vote in the Committee of the Whole. Joined by his colleagues from Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico), and the District of Columbia, Faleomavaega spoke against the proposed rules during the House debate on the issue.
The full text of Faleomavaega’s floor statement is inserted below.
The proposed rules for the 112th Congress give unfair treatment to some five million Americans residing in the U.S. territories and D.C. In particular, it eliminates the rule that allows the Delegates to vote when the House resolves into the Committee of the Whole, and that provides for an automatic revote in the full House if such vote decides the outcome.
The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the Delegate vote on the basis that there is automatic reconsideration of votes in the House when the Delegate vote is decisive. Automatic reconsideration preserves the House proper as the sole arbiter for changes made in any legislation that the House considers.
During the three Congresses in which the rule has been in place, the record shows that the Delegate vote in the Committee of the Whole has not in any way hindered the work of the House. From 1993 to 2010, there were 132 separate votes demanded in the House on first degree amendments reported from the Committee of the Whole. In the same period, only four such amendments were reconsidered as a result of the Delegate vote affecting the outcome. This proves that the rule to allow the Delegates to vote in the Committee of the Whole does not impede the work of the House.
While symbolic, the Delegate vote is important for transparency and political accountability. It compels us, representatives of the Territories and DC, to make public our views and positions on issues of national interest that are important to our constituents. Hence, the constituents are able to make an informed decision during election.
Above all, the Delegate vote underscores fairness and has moral implications for this institution and this great nation. As part of the American family, a disproportionate number of our sons and daughters are fighting in the US military in defense of the values and principles upon which this country was founded.
A statistical profile of Americans killed in the war in Iraq shows my district, the U.S. Territory of American Samoa, has the highest rate of deaths per 1-million population in all of the United States. Just last month, I attended the funeral of another soldier from my district killed in Iraq. Staff Sergeant Loleni Gandy, originally from American Samoa, was 36 years old, and has served in the U.S. Army for 17 years. He is survived by his wife and four young sons who now have to cope with the loss of their father. Like all other Americans, the love and loyalty my people feel for the United States remain unchanged.
It is disconcerting therefore that under the new rules proposed for the 112th Congress, the Delegates are stripped of the power to vote in the Committee of the Whole. This is a disservice to the more than five million Americans residing in the Territories and D.C., and further diminishes what modest representation they have in Congress.
“I urge my friends on the other side to reverse course and reinstate the rule to allow the Delegates to vote in the Committee of the Whole,” Faleomavaega concluded.