D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton voted on the House floor for the first time on Tuesday since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Norton voted under the Committee of the While, a procedure that occurs before the final vote on any legislation in the House. Norton was allowed to vote on the floor under those circumstances but cannot participate in the final phase of the legislative process because she doesn’t represent a state.
Soon after becoming a member of the House in 1991, Norton challenged the House rules denying her a vote on the floor, saying the District had a vote in standing committees and therefore should have a vote in the Committee of the Whole. Then-U.S. Speaker of the House Tom Foley (D-Wash.) and House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) bought Norton’s argument and permitted her to vote in the Committee of the Whole in the 103rd Congress.
Federal courts on the district and appeals levels affirmed the House’s right to grant Norton the ability to vote in the Committee of the Whole. However, when the Republicans took control of the House in 1995, they gutted her vote.
The Democrats resurrected Norton’s floor vote in 2007 when the Democrats took the House chamber and when the Republicans gained control in 2011, they stripped it.
“The delegate vote’s importance to the taxpaying American citizens who live in the District cannot be overstated,” Norton said. “D.C. residents have fought in every war since the Revolutionary War and D.C. pays more federal taxes per capita than any state and more federal taxes than 23 states.”