Dems Moving on D.C. Voting Rights Bill Despite Poison-Pill Gun LanguageApril 19, 2010 - by Donny Shaw
With the congressional Democrats expecting big losses in the mid-terms, they are making a final push to get Washington D.C. a full-fledged voting member in the House of Representatives. But the Republicans, who hold enough votes in the Senate to filibuster anything they want, are forcing the Democrats to accept a trade-off most of them find odious— they’ll only let the D.C. voting rights bill go through if it includes a gutting of the district’s gun control laws.
The bill would make the District of Columbia a congressional district for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives for the 112th Congress and in each succeeding cycle. It states that with regards to appointing members to the House, D.C. would behave as a state and that the membership of the house would increase from 435 to 437 members. The other new House seat would go to Utah and be an “at-large” member for now, meaning that they would be elected by a state-wide vote.
The gun issue stems from the Senate’s action on D.C. voting rights legislation last year. With the help of 23 Democrats the Republicans won an amendment sponsored by Sen. John Ensign [R, NV] that would take away D.C.’s authority to set their own gun control laws. You can read the text of the gun amendment in the context of the Senate bill here.
Now, with a push from Obama, the House is scheduled to vote this week on their own D.C. voting rights bill, and D.C.‘s non-voting House delegate Rep. Eleanor Norton [D, DC-0] is saying that she has resigned to accepting the gun language from the Senate bill if that’s what it takes to pass the bill.
The Washington Post this weekend came out strongly against trading D.C.’s gun control laws for a voting member of Congress.
Theoretically, the Senate could accept the House’s D.C. voting right’s bill, which doesn’t contain any gun language, but Sen. Orrin Hatch [R, UT] says that he will filibuster the bill over the “at-large” Utah member. “Utah deserves an additional seat in the House, but like every other state it should have the freedom to elect its House members from regular districts,” Hatch said last week.
So, with Hatch’s opposition, the House bill is dead-on-arrival. When it goes into conference committee with the Senate bill, assuming it passes this week, the House bill will largely be set aside and replaced with the Senate bill’s provisions, including the gun language and a plan to give Utah a new member in their own, newly-designed congressional district.
Image from ojbyrne used under a CC license.