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Pedro P.
Democrat PR 0

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  • Rules of the House

    by Representative Pedro R. Pierluisi

    Posted on 2013-01-03

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    PIERLUISI. Madam Speaker, for the second straight Congress, I oppose the rules package, because it sends a message of exclusion to residents of the territories and the District of Columbia.



    Under a rule in place for the last three Democratic-controlled Congresses, the delegates were permitted to vote on amendments when the House met in the Committee of the Whole. The rule, which provided for a revote if our votes were decisive, was upheld by the federal courts and did not impede the work of the House.

    The rule promoted responsible government by requiring the delegates to take public stands on issues. It also sent a message of inclusion to our constituents. Yet, once again, in a move that is as unnecessary as it is unjust, the new rules will deprive us of this privilege.

    As Resident Commissioner, I represent 3.7 million U.S. citizens, more than any House member and 44 senators. My fellow delegates represent about one million people. Our constituents are part of the American family. They fight--and many have died--in defense of our nation. The rules package demeans their sacrifice.

    In November, a referendum in Puerto Rico showed a clear majority wants to end the Island's undemocratic status, and that more voters support statehood than any other status option. Today's rules demonstrate why the status quo must--and will--end. I look forward to the day when Puerto Rico will have equal representation in the government that makes its national laws, rather than having to plead for the reinstatement of a limited and largely symbolic vote.

    Mrs. CHRISTENSEN. Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to the Rules Package which once again denies the opportunity for Delegates to Congress and the Resident Commissioner to vote on amendments in the Committee of the Whole. We were privileged to have this right first in the 103rd Congress and then again in the 110th and 111th.

    Mr. Speaker, the over 4 million citizens in the U.S. territories are among the most patriotic Americans you will find anywhere in our country. They have served and died for their country in every war and conflict since the First World War including the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Much like their fellow citizens on the mainland they are a diverse group of individuals. Some were born in the territories under the American flag, some have [[Page H19]] migrated there and embraced our culture and our values before naturalization, and others were born in the states and have chosen by virtue of their chosen occupation or by love of our islands to make the territories their home. All are Americans in every sense of the word, except for full representation in the House of Representatives and the ability to vote for the President of the United States.

    We had hoped and expected that our colleagues in the House would recognize the contributions of their fellow American insular residents and afford their representatives the opportunity to participate more fully in the decisions of the ``people's House'', unfortunately however the rules package being voted on has once again proven to us that we still have a long way to go to ensure equality and justice for all. It is ironic and sad, that the United States is the leading voice calling for people around the world to have more, not less say in the governance of their countries, while the rules of the House of Representatives disenfranchise the representatives of American citizens living in U.S. Insular Areas and the District of Colombia.

    The material previously referred to by Ms. Slaughter is as follows: An Amendment to H. Res. 5 Offered by Ms. Slaughter of New York At the end of the resolution, add the following new sections: Sec. 6. At any time before January 31, 2013, it shall be in order to consider in the House a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that would overturn the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United and other court cases that prohibit Congress and the states from limiting the corrupting influence of money in politics, unlimited political spending in elections, and the proliferation of Super PACs by secret donors that erode democracy and result in voter apathy, whenever called up by the Minority Leader or her designee. All points of order against the joint resolution and its consideration are waived. The joint resolution shall be debatable for three hours equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the joint resolution to final passage without intervening motion except one motion to recommit.

    Sec. 7. Clause 1(c) of rule XIX shall not apply to the consideration of the joint resolution specified in section 6 of this resolution.

    ____ The Vote on the Previous Question: What It Really Means This vote, the vote on whether to order the previous question on a resolution, is not merely a procedural vote. A vote against ordering the previous question is a vote against the Republican majority agenda and a vote to allow the opposition, at least for the moment, to offer an alternative plan. It is a vote about what the House should be debating.

    Mr. Clarence Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives (VI, 308-311), describes the vote on the previous question as ``a motion to direct or control the consideration of the subject before the House being made by the Member in charge.'' To defeat the previous question is to give the opposition a chance to decide the subject before the House. Cannon cites the Speaker's ruling of January 13, 1920, to the effect that ``the refusal of the House to sustain the demand for the previous question passes the control of the resolution to the opposition'' in order to offer an amendment. On March 15, 1909, a member of the majority party offered a rule resolution. The House defeated the previous question and a member of the opposition rose to a parliamentary inquiry, asking who was entitled to recognition. Speaker Joseph G. Cannon (R-Illinois) said: ``The previous question having been refused, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Fitzgerald, who had asked the gentleman to yield to him for an amendment, is entitled to the first recognition.'' Because the vote today may look bad for the Republican majority they will say ``the vote on the previous question is simply a vote on whether to proceed to an immediate vote on adopting the resolution . . . [and] has no substantive legislative or policy implications whatsoever.'' But that is not what they have always said. Listen to the Republican Leadership Manual on the Legislative Process in the United States House of Representatives, (6th edition, page 135). Here's how the Republicans describe the previous question vote in their own manual: ``Although it is generally not possible to amend the rule because the majority Member controlling the time will not yield for the purpose of offering an amendment, the same result may be achieved by voting down the previous question on the rule. . . . When the motion for the previous question is defeated, control of the time passes to the Member who led the opposition to ordering the previous question. That Member, because he then controls the time, may offer an amendment to the rule, or yield for the purpose of amendment.'' In Deschler's Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the subchapter titled ``Amending Special Rules'' states: ``a refusal to order the previous question on such a rule [a special rule reported from the Committee on Rules] opens the resolution to amendment and further debate.'' (Chapter 21, section 21.2) Section 21.3 continues: ``Upon rejection of the motion for the previous question on a resolution reported from the Committee on Rules, control shifts to the Member leading the opposition to the previous question, who may offer a proper amendment or motion and who controls the time for debate thereon.'' Clearly, the vote on the previous question on a resolution does have substantive policy implications. It is one of the only available tools for those who oppose the Republican majority's agenda and allows those with alternative views the opportunity to offer an alternative plan.

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