Voting Rights for Delegates


January 7, 2012

In December I wrote a post about the new Republican House rules eliminating the voting privilege of the 6 territorial and Washington, DC House Delegates in the Committee of the Whole. The Committee of the Whole is a U.S. House of Representatives procedure that allows the entire membership to act as a committee to fast track legislation. Under the Democratic House, the Delegates had this voting privilege.

This week Congressman Kilili Sablan issued a press release objecting to the Republican rule.  You can read it here.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer introduced legislation January 6, 2010 to reinstate the Delegates' limited voting rights.  The Hill quotes him as saying:
"The unacceptable" change will leave millions of U.S. citizens without a voice in Congress.

"It is absolutely unacceptable to deny nearly 5 million Americans a voice in Congress,” Hoyer said in a statement. “Republicans continually declare they are focused on listening to the American people. With this rules change, they are ignoring the voices of 5 million American citizens."
All of the Delegates are Democrats, except for Congressman Sablan who is an Independent.

They should be allowed to vote in the Committee of the Whole.

The territories do not pay federal income taxes and their Delegates will not get full voting privileges until they do. The federal taxpayers in the states bear the cost of funding the territories, and too often also bear the angst of watching them misuse and squander the federal tax dollars.

Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes that CNMI and territorial residents pay generally make their way back to them (unless the person paying taxes is a non-resident who will never receive social security unless they have a green card or permanent residency). These taxes cannot and should not be compared to federal income taxes.

It's time that the U.S. Congress review this issue.  The U.S. citizen residents in all territories should start paying federal income taxes, just like every U.S. citizen in the mainland, regardless of income level,  does.  At that time the territories' Delegates should be given full voting privileges.

It would be great if the Delegates that are denouncing their disenfranchisement remember the disenfranchisement and denial of political rights that have been systematically heaped upon the long-term foreign workers in the CNMI and other territories.  Their continued disenfranchisement, violates of the principles on which our nation was founded. It also violates the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sablan's DC office is a waste of US Federal Taxpayer money. He can just as easily video conference from an office on Saipan. A lot of people also question his staffing choices. What are their qualifications? Does he hire relatives? He calls himself an "independent", that's just playing it neutral and safe. Why do you think he can't give a straight answer on CW status?

Wendy said...

Anonymous 3:15

It is absolutely not a waste of money to have a CNMI Delegate's Office and no, he could not be an effective Delegate from afar. You need to read his website to see all that is accomplished. Thank goodness that there is an elected leader from the CNMI who has so much respect in DC. The governor sure doesn't!

Why not ask him about his views on CW status and give your opinion?. He knows the views of the majority of the long-term guest workers because I gave his office the petition with over 5,000 signatures calling for those who have worked in the CNMI 5 years or more to be granted a direct pathway to US citizenship. By contrast the CNMI Senate Hearings had less than 1% of the CNMI population represented and he said he would consider that report. Let's see if he is swayed by politics and his desire to get re-elected or if he has the courage to do the right thing by all of the long-term guest workers (those that have lived and worked in the CNMI for 5 or more years) and their families.

Anonymous said...

"Let's see if he's swayed by politics?" He's a politician!

The United States does not give money to the CNMI based on Greg being a nice guy or even liked. Regardless of who sits in the Governor's office the CNMI will get Federal funding. You are naive to believe otherwise. It only appears that Congressman Sablan has gotten all kinds of money because it's listed on his website and it helps that he is the first delegate! Even during Juan Babauta's massively corrupt administration, the CNMI got funding. He even bragged about keeping the Feds from taking over immigration! Yet the CNMI got funding.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 4:29

Congressman Sablan worked to bring a great deal of funding and grants to the CNMI. That is a fact. The reference to his site was for those who wished to verify amounts of funding.

Yes, elected leaders are politicians. They are also SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE. That means rather than considering, "Will my decision help me to get elected or please the special interests" the question should be, "Will this decision best serve all of the residents in my district."

The Saipan Blogger said...

It is my understanding that the voting rights of the delegates is linked to the Constitution, not to the payment of taxes. Full voting rights would require a constitutional amendment and/or statehood.

Wendy said...

Hi Angelo

You are correct, but I am sure that there could be a constitutional amendment to grant voting rights. I mention taxes because the US taxpayers fund the territories; the territorial residents do not pay taxes like the states and DC residents, which sets them further apart from being on a level playing field with the full members of the US Congress.

Anonymous said...

See also Del. Gregorio Sablan (I-Northern Mariana Islands), “We are all taken back by the new Rules,” The Hill, Fri. 01/07/11 11:19 a.m. E.S.T., available at http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/136613-we-are-all-taken-back-by-the-new-rules-del-gregorio-sablan.