Dems seek more House votes by hook or by crooked legislation

April 20, 2010 05:01

New bill being pushed would give Washington DC voting rights of a state and dictate to Utah how it selects its new representative. Loosening of gun restrictions has been thrown in as a sweetener for conservatives.

By Deborah Simmons at Washington Times

D.C. voting rights always has been a heavy political lift inside the Beltway, and the latest version poised to be voted on this week is more of the same.

Detractors include a conservative House member who says the D.C. Voting Rights Act doesn’t pass constitutional muster and two longtime voting rights advocates – the League of Women Voters and a backer of D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The House D.C. Voting Rights Act is similar to legislation passed last year in the Senate. It would grant full voting rights to the District’s nonvoting House delegate and give Utah a fourth seat. But instead of representing a congressional district drawn by the Utah Legislature, the new lawmaker would represent the entire state. The bill also would repeal some gun laws.

Mrs. Norton, a Democrat who has made voting rights a major congressional priority since her first election in 1990, said supporters have to face reality and take the bitter with the sweet.

“The Democratic majorities in the Senate and in the House are already diminishing and are expected to be reduced even further,” said Mrs. Norton, who is seeking re-election, last week. “Moreover, this is the first time we have had a president in office who will sign the bill along with majorities in Congress to pass it. I have given this fight all that I had. There is nothing left to do but make the hard decision.”

On Monday, Mary G. Wilson, president of the League of Women Voters, and Billie Day, president of the D.C. league, said, “There are two fundamental responsibilities that all elected officials must fulfill: protecting our democratic rights as Americans and protecting our lives and safety. Asking citizens to sacrifice their safety in order to have representation in Congress is unacceptable.”

Human rights advocate Timothy Cooper, executive director of D.C.-based Worldrights, who has stood side by side with Mrs. Norton in the decades-long fight for voting rights, called the bill a “public disaster.”


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