Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Resolution (H.Res. 78) yesterday by a margin of 226-191 amending the Rules of the House to permit the Delegates and Resident Commissioner from the U.S. Territories to cast votes in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union (Committee of the Whole).
“I want to thank my good friend and colleague, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, for offering this legislation and also extend my gratitude to my colleagues here in the House who voted in support of this important measure,” Faleomavaega said. “This Rules change was offered by the Democratic leadership to honor democracy for the nearly 5 million Americans living in the U.S. Territories by allowing their representatives to Congress to participate more fully in the democratic process.”
“I had hoped that this would have been a bipartisan effort and I am disappointed that the Republican leadership chose not to support this resolution, especially since a similar resolution was passed 13 years ago. I was also deeply disturbed by the comments of my Republican colleagues who seemed to suggest that because American Samoa only has about 70,000 residents, we do not deserve to have this opportunity to vote in the Committee of the Whole. But as I pointed out to them on the House floor, the people of American Samoa have fought and died for our country alongside the soldiers from the States and I believe that we deserve to have our voice heard just like every other American.”
“In fact, since our great nation’s inception in the 1700’s, Congress has recognized the vital importance of allowing Delegates to represent the interests of the residents of the U.S. Territories in the House of Representatives and, while voting on legislation in the House of Representatives is constitutionally limited to the Members of Congress ‘chosen from the several States,’ the Committee of the Whole operates as a House committee on which every Member of the House serves. Although formal votes to enact legislation are undertaken by the House itself, the Committee of the Whole is the principal forum for discussing and amending legislation before it is sent to the floor of the House for a formal vote.”
“The Rules as passed today include a revote provision that will not allow the votes cast by the Delegates to be determinative of the outcome. If the outcome of a vote taken in the Committee of the Whole falls within the margin of the number of Delegates voting, the vote will be recast without the participation of the Delegates. In other words, our vote is symbolic.”
“But, by allowing the Delegates to participate in the shaping of legislation to be voted on by Congress, our local concerns about matters before Congress are more likely to be taken into consideration before enactment. For this reason, I applaud my Democratic colleagues for supporting this measure which recognizes and respects the contributions and sacrifices our people have made in making America what it is today, and allows American Samoa a stronger measure of participation in our nation’s democracy,” Faleomavaega concluded.
Photo: Faleomavaega and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) are standing in the center of the jam-packed House Chamber just moments before Members of the House of Representatives were sworn in for the 110th Congress on January 4, 2007. Moments later, the Democratic controlled House of Representatives made history by electing Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (CA) as the first female speaker in the history of the United States and the U.S. Congress.