7 Jan 2011

US Democrats seek reinstatement of territories' rights

4:08 pm on 7 January 2011

The Democrats in the United States Congress have introduced a resolution to reverse the Republicans' decision to strip territorial delegates of floor voting rights in the House's Committee of the Whole.

The Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer says it is unacceptable to deny five million Americans in territories including American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas a voice in Congress.

Jo O'Brien reports

"The Democrats are seeking to amend the rules introduced by the Republican-controlled House for the 112th Congress. Guam delegate, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo says the Republican rules make the body less transparent and responsive to the American people. She says the territorial delegates' limited vote had shown their constituents where they stood on important issues and helped ensure legislation under consideration took their welfare into account. Northern Marianas delegate, Congressman Gregorio Sablan says the people of the Northern Marianas are US citizens but the rules exclude them from even symbolic representation in government."

Meanwhile, American Samoa's Congress member, Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin says his constituents fight and die in disproportionate numbers in defence of the United States and the Republican rules demean their sacrifice.

But he says the stripping of voting rights has no impact on his ability to voice American Samoa's views in the US Congress.

He says the vote in committee is more of a symbolic gesture for territorial delegates to have the same say as the other members of Congress.

The bottom line is the vote really doesn't count. I'm still able to vote in committee, I can introduce bills, I can debate on the floor. Procedurally, I can do anything else at all other members do, but for that one exception, simply because the constitution expressly states only members representing states are to vote on given bills or legislation.

American Samoa's Congressman, Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin