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D.C. Bill May Reach Senate Floor During Week of Sept. 17

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could bring to the floor the bill granting the District of Columbia a full vote in the House as soon as the week of Sept. 17, an aide confirmed today.

While the Majority Leader hopes to bring the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act to the floor that week, the scheduling of the bill is not yet set in stone, said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.

Reid had hoped to move the bill before the August recess but decided to delay a vote to focus on more pressing legislation. At the same time, Reid reaffirmed his support for the voting rights measure and promised to bring it up shortly after recess.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Utah Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, the legislation would grant Democratic-leaning D.C. a vote in the House also while giving one to largely Republican Utah.

Supporters of the measure say they are confident the bill will pass the Senate and have lined up the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

Strong opposition lingers, however. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has argued that the bill is unconstitutional because it gives Congressional representation to a nonstate. White House aides have said they would recommend President Bush veto the bill should it reach his desk.

Despite that opposition, supporters remained confident, saying that getting a floor vote on the bill is a positive step.

“We think this is great news,” said Ilir Zherka, executive director of the advocacy group DC Vote. “We believe that we have a majority of Senators ready to support this bill, and we are calling on Sen. Mitch McConnell to block any effort to filibuster.”

Aside from its co-sponsors, Republican support has emerged for the measure. When the bill appeared before the Lieberman-chaired Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in June, ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Republican Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.) and George Voinovich (Ohio) voted for the measure.

The bill also recently gained support from Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor said he didn’t believe it was appropriate for D.C. residents to pay taxes but not vote in Congress.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who co-sponsored the House version of the legislation with Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), wrote Huckabee on Thursday to thank him.

“Your support could prove especially helpful as we seek to make the point that this is not a country where voting rights bills are filibustered any more,” Norton wrote.

The House version of the measure passed that chamber in a 241-177 vote in April.

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