PACIFIC DELEGATES RARELY VOTE IN U.S. CONGRESS

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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Aug 27) – Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and other delegates to the U.S. House of Representatives were given the ability to vote on the floor earlier this year after the Democrats gained control of Congress. The voting privilege had been eliminated during the Republican-controlled Congress.

The restored vote for delegates from the insular areas and the District of Columbia is primarily symbolic -- delegates can vote only on proposed changes to bills and only if their vote does not make a difference.

"Delegates will once again be able to participate in a more active way in the Committee of the Whole and the amendment process that occurs on major legislation," Bordallo said earlier this year, after the House voted to restore the vote to delegates.

But the delegates have had a poor record of actually voting when their names are called, according to Congressional voting logs. Three of the delegates hold the bottom three spots in terms of participation during voting.

American Samoa Del. Eni Faleomavaega, a Democrat, is last in the House in terms of percentage of votes cast. He has not voted 193 out of 361 possible opportunities since February, or about 53 percent.

Bordallo is next to last, having missed 110 votes out of 361 voting opportunities, or about 30 percent. Many of her missed votes happened in July this year, during the week of Guam's July 21 Liberation Day celebrations. She resumed voting on July 24.

Voting records show that Bordallo voted during the day on amendments to some bills, then stopped voting in the early evening, although voting on those measures continued late into the night.

Puerto Rico's independent delegate, Luis Fortuño, missed 108 out of 361 voting opportunities since February, or 29.9 percent.

The other two delegates, Eleanor Norton, of the District of Columbia, and Donna Christensen, of the U.S. Virgin Islands, missed fewer than 10 percent of their votes.

"About a third of the missed votes occurred during the week of July 16 to July 23 when I was on Guam for the Liberation activities," Bordallo said in a written statement.

"My voting record is comparable to that of the other delegates," she stated. "Because we only vote on amendments in the Committee of the Whole, it is sometimes difficult to predict when those votes will occur, and we all miss some votes because of the nature of the floor proceedings."

Since the delegate votes ultimately do not count -- a revote would be taken, excluding the delegates, if their votes change the outcome of an amendment -- Bordallo said the delegates have to prioritize voting with other duties, such as meetings or committee hearings.

"When I miss votes, I usually send a statement for inclusion in the Congressional Record explaining how I would have voted had I been present," she stated.

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