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'Non-Voting' Delegates Lose 'Symbolic' Vote

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By Manuel Quinones, Capitol News Connection

Although D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is known as a "non-voting delegate," there were times she was allowed to cast a vote. In one of their first acts as House leaders, Republicans put an end to that Wednesday.

In parliamentary language, non-voting delegates like Norton and the representatives of U.S. territories were permitted to cast votes when the House operated as a Committee of the Whole, or like a committee instead of a chamber. That allowed the delegates to vote on certain amendments, but not final passage of a bill. But Republicans put an end to those votes Wednesday calling them unconstitutional.

"The effect is chiefly: residents of the District of Columbia will no longer know how I would have voted on very important matters," Norton says.

In recent decades, delegates have gained and lost these "symbolic" voting rights in a tug of war between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats granted the privilege in 1993, Republicans rescinded it a few years later, Speaker Nancy Pelosi restored the practice after Democrats took control in 2007.

"There's no conclusion that one can draw except that it is partisanship," Norton says.

Five of the House delegates, including Norton, are Democrats, the other is an independent.

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