For the first time in 12 years the U.S. Virgin Islands will have a vote in the U.S. Congress — and the territory’s five-term Delegate to Congress, Dr. Donna M. Christensen, is ready to wield the power of that vote.
Like congressional delegates representing other U.S. territories and federal districts, Del. Christensen will not be able to participate in formal votes on the House floor, but under parliamentary rules the congresswoman will have expanded membership and voting rights in Con-gressional committees under the new Democratic majority.
“I’ve made a request along with the commissioner from Puerto Rico to go back to the old rule that we can sit on major committees without being considered part of the (Democratic-Republican) ratio,” Del. Christensen said in an interview on St. John on November 22. “They (leadership) are going to give a lot of consideration to reinstating it.”
Weighing Committee Choices
Meanwhile, the five-term Congress-woman said she is weighing her choices of committee assignments and leadership positions based on her seniority.
While she is considering a seat on Energy and Commerce Committee, Del. Christensen said she is weighing her seniority on both the Small Business, Resources and Parks and the Homeland Security committees.
“It’s a hard balancing act,” said the delegate, who added there is also consideration of reviving a subcommittee on territorial and Indian affairs which she would consider being involved with.
“I don’t have to give up chairmanship,” said Del. Christensen, ranking Democrat on the House National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Subcommittee.
While Del. Christensen already exercised her newfound strength in historic and hotly-contested votes in the Democratic Caucus in mid-November, her true voting power will be in the Committee of the Whole House where Christensen will be able to vote on amendments to legislation and on how bills are handled.
Vote in Controversial Caucus
The Democratic Caucus voted Novem-ber 16 to nominate Nancy Pelosi of California as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, which will make her the first female Speaker of the House in history.
“I am very proud to see Nancy, who is a friend and has always looked out for me, ascend to this high post and break yet another glass ceiling,” Del. Christensen said in a press release. “I am also especially proud of my good friend and former Congressional Black Caucus chair, Jim Clyburn, who will assume the important post of Whip.”
Del. Christensen put her friendship with Rep. Pelosi to the test in the vote by the Democratic Caucus for Majority Leader between Steny Hoyer of Maryland and John Murtha of Pennsylvania.
“I supported Steny from the beginning and throughout, despite a lot of pressure to change my commitment to him,” Del. Christensen added. “I am glad he won and look forward to working with Murtha in other capacities,”
“But Nancy’s leadership is unchallenged,” the delegate said. “She is a strong and visionary leader and I look forward to working with her and supporting her in any way I can.”
Official Vote in January
The final votes for Speaker, Whip and Majority Leader are done by the entire House of Representatives and will take place on January 4, 2007.
“We have a great agenda and great leadership,” Del. Christensen said. “I expect the 110th Congress to be a good one for the V.I.”