Given Senate Gun Language, Hoyer Says Bill to Grant House Voting Rights for District Won’t Happen This Year

For Immediate Release:

June 15, 2009

Contact:Edward Epstein

CQ Weekly

Legislation to grant voting rights in the House of Representatives to the District of Columbia probably won’t come to the House floor this year, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer indicated June 9.

The forecast from Hoyer, D-Md., a longtime advocate of District voting rights, was a sharp change from earlier optimism that he could find a way out of an apparent deadlock over a provision in a Senate-passed version of the bill (S 160) that would strip many of the District’s gun ownership restrictions. (Senate passage, CQ Weekly, p. 487)

Hoyer said he wouldn’t give up his efforts to get a vote on the House version (HR 157). He again attacked the gun amendment, which he opposes, and said that it is a national shame that the District, home to 600,000 people, does not have voting representation in Congress. “It is a blot on our democracy. I will continue to work it,” he said.

Part of the problem is that District leaders disagree over whether to accept the gun language. Hoyer said he wants “consensus, not unanimity.”

Some members of the District Council and Democratic Mayor Adrian M. Fenty have indicated that it might be worthwhile to proceed with the bill, even with the gun language. But Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., has strongly opposed that idea.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he hoped the District legislation could be revived.

"Each day that goes by that we don't have D.C. voting rights is a bad day, in my estimation," said Reid, who like many other moderate and conservative Democrats voted for the guns amendment to the Senate bill. Currently, the District has only a non-voting delegate, as do American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

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