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Campus Notebook: Norton Hopes to Keep Right to Vote

Following worries that the House will repeat a policy implemented in 1995, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton sent a letter to Minority Leader John Boehner asking that he maintain her right to vote in the Committee of the Whole in the 112th Congress.

The Washington, D.C., Democrat and other Delegates can vote in committees and the Committee of the Whole, which debates legislation but cannot pass a bill, but they are barred from voting on the House floor.

She asked the Ohio Republican, who will most likely be Speaker in January, only that her vote be maintained, citing the fact that the District is the lone Delegate-represented territory whose citizens pay federal taxes.

“The opportunity to vote in committees, now including the Committee of the Whole, is significant to the American citizens who live in the nation’s capital and pay full federal taxes annually to support our federal government,” Norton wrote.

The 103rd Congress was the first to implement the Committee of the Whole vote in 1993. But it was quickly stripped in 1995 when Republicans took over the House for the first time in more than 40 years.

In January 2007, a Democratic majority in the 110th Congress reinstated the vote for Delegates and the resident commissioner.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said, “No decision has been made on that issue at this time.” 

Cutting the Ice

Majority Transition Committee Chairman Greg Walden is asking Members and staffers to find the ice buckets.

Using a metaphor from 1995, the Oregon Republican sent a Web-based survey to every Member, chief of staff and office manager Tuesday asking them to identify places for potential House budget cuts.

The ice bucket reference comes from the 104th Congress, when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) eliminated ice deliveries to Member offices to save money.

“Dating from the days before modern refrigeration, by 1994 this service had long since grown unnecessary,” Walden wrote as part of the survey. “As Members and staffers, you doubtless encounter ‘ice buckets’ in your daily work: inefficiencies, flawed processes and rules or practices that waste taxpayer dollars while doing little to improve the House’s work on behalf of the American people.”

In addition to asking Members and staff to identify cuts, the survey asks where services can be done better. It also gauges satisfaction on a broad range of House issues, such as payroll and benefits, hiring, staff training, quality and value of food service, furniture, information technology, franking, Capitol tours and the process for scheduling meeting rooms in the House office buildings.

Walden is asking that the surveys be returned by Friday.

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