DELEGATE VOTING -- (House of Representatives - January 23, 2007)
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the time and the opportunity to talk with my colleagues about an issue that is of tremendous importance to us. It is certainly one that I have heard from from my constituents in Tennessee's Seventh Congressional District. They are quite concerned about this. It seems that all of a sudden last week, outside of regular order, outside of the normal committee process, an old idea resurfaced and came before this body in the form of a piece of legislation that is not going through regular order, is not going through the committee process. And I had many constituents who were quite concerned about this, and how could a bill that is important to us, important to our Nation, important to our structure and our way of governing come before us without people being aware? This issue is the issue of delegate voting. We are going to hear more about this today and tomorrow. Then the Democrat majority is going to push this to the floor for a vote so that they can circumvent what is the constitutional underpinning of this great Nation.
Now, we as Republicans believe in the constitutional principle of one person, one vote. We think that that is important. It is important to adhere to that, that everyone is equal under the law. Everyone is entitled to their vote, everyone is entitled to that representation of one person, one vote. And to change that principle and allow delegate voting would require an amendment of the Constitution. That is not a statement that comes only from me but the Democrats can look at their former Speaker of the House, Tom Foley, who is on record in 1970 when this old issue came up at that point. In 1970, former Speaker of the House Tom Foley, a Democrat from Washington State said, and I am quoting, it is very clear that a constitutional amendment would be required to give delegates a vote in the Committee of the Whole, which is the full House.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this act by the Democrats is nothing more than an unconstitutional power grab that they want in order to be able to further their agenda. So we feel that it is important to stand against this. We feel that it is also important that we look at the Constitution, when it says that the House shall be composed of Members chosen by the people of the several States, not delegates representing the non-State territories. There is a distinction here. There is a bright line here.
We also feel like that it is important to note that this plan would run over that tenderly held principle of one person, one vote. The average congressional district has approximately 650,000 people. Mine in Tennessee has a little bit more than that. We know that Speaker Pelosi's has 640,000 people. But we also know that American Samoa has 57,000 people, the Virgin Islands 108,000, and Guam 155,000. So the Delegates that represent those numbers of individuals could vote to raise your taxes, but--and this is another point that concerned my constituents--they would not have to pay them. So their Delegates can vote to raise the taxes of my constituents in Tennessee but those Delegates' constituents wouldn't have to be paying the taxes. They get benefits, they want a vote, they want to use that money. They are just not having to pay the taxes.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I do believe that this is something that many people would say, well, if we're going to have equity under the law, if they're not going to have to pay though those taxes, if they're going to have a Congressman for 57,000 people and they have their vote for 57,000 or 108,000 or 155,000, then why don't we just change the rules for everybody? The answer to that, Mr. Speaker, we know is because this Constitution means something. This is a Nation of laws. It is a Nation that is built on the rule of law. And to give Delegates the right to vote is inappropriate. It is a circumvention of our law. It is a violation of our Constitution.
Now, we know that the Democrat leadership is trying to ram this through the House and there are some reasons for doing this. They feel like they can literally do it on the sly this week. Tonight is the State of the Union. They feel like they can do this in the shadow of the State of the Union without going through the process of the committees, without going through the process of amending the Constitution. We also know that they would choose to do it before they establish regular order.
Mr. Speaker, you know, we have not been in the committee process. The committees have not been functioning. We have been having bills come straight to the floor without the due diligence and the oversight that is done by the committees. We know the Democrats would choose to circumvent that process and pass this before regular order is established. It is an issue of great concern. I appreciate very much that my constituents have been involved in the issue.