28 April 2010

US House Fails to Vote on Washington DC Voting Rights

Dems ditch D.C. voting rights bill
By: Jake Sherman

Democrats have ditched plans to bring a District of Columbia voting rights bill to the House floor, a major setback in the long-running effort to give the nation's capital full representation in Congress.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested that unrelated issues — such as gun rights provisions – sidelined D.C. voting bill. Hoyer had originally hoped to bring the bill to the floor this week, but now believes the legislation may be dead for the year.

Hoyer made the decision with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the non-voting representative of the District, who was uncomfortable with the gun legislation that was being attached to the bill, a Democratic aide said.

Norton said the bill would not have made it through the Senate anyway because the gun-related amendment would have allowed wide open gun ownership in D.C.

Norton said gun provisions – which she said were drafted by the National Rifle Association – would “surely bring down the support we have had of anti-gun Democratic Senators.”

It is a personal defeat for Hoyer, who has long championed the legislation, and for D.C., whose 600,000 citizens do not have a full voting representative in Congress. Hoyer, on several occasions, said he is “profoundly disappointed” that the legislation will not be brought up and added that he personally wrote the statement he delivered to reporters Tuesday morning.

The legislation should be focused “solely on the central premise of American democracy,” not local D.C. crime issues or the addition of a House seat for Utah. Both of these issues have haunted the legislation in the past.

“I believe that the bill that should be adopted would extend that right to the residents of the capital city of the world’s greatest democracy,” Hoyer said. “It is a blight on that democracy that we have not done so. That bill should be unfettered by any other provisions.”

Past versions of the D.C. voting rights bill have been bogged down when Republicans successfully attached amendments that would force much more open gun laws in the city, which has the strictest gun laws in the country.

When asked what sidelined the legislation this time – opposition by liberal Democrats to the gun provisions, or the threat of a filibuster by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) because of the at-large seat – Hoyer said simply “the price was too high.”