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House Passes First Half of Package Granting a Vote to D.C.

In a 241-177 vote this afternoon, the House passed the first part of legislation designed to give the District of Columbia a full vote in the chamber.

The District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act grants D.C. residents a full-voting Representative. A compromise measure, it also gives an at-large seat to Utah, which just missed getting another Congressional seat after the 2000 Census.

Lawmakers are now debating a second, complementary bill, which seeks to cover the costs of the new seats. A vote on that measure is expected this afternoon.

This is the second time in a month that the D.C. voting rights issue has hit the House floor. Democrats were forced to split the original voting rights bill into two separate but connected measures after Republicans, led by Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas), introduced a motion to recommit that would revoke the longtime D.C. gun ban. By attaching a tax provision to the original bill, Democrats opened the door for Republicans to introduce the gun language.

Democrats pulled the bill from the floor, fearing some moderate Members would feel obligated to vote to revoke the gun ban.

Today’s debate on D.C. voting rights has mirrored the March debate, with supporters arguing there is an obligation to give District residents Congressional representation and opponents saying the measure is unconstitutional.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who sponsored the legislation with D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), said Republicans represent a party that has long fought to increase Congressional representation for all Americans and should get behind this vote.

“There is still time to pass a Republican vote,” Davis said. “A vote to increase representation and preserve our party’s heritage.”

Smith tried once again today to tie up the bill with a motion to commit, this time to require expedited judicial review if the bill becomes law. The motion failed in a 193-227 vote.

If the second measure passes, its language would be attached to the first bill before being sent to the Senate. Both bills must pass for the legislation to move to the Senate.

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