Hoyer Defends Holder’s Move on D.C. Bill

Posted April 1, 2009 at 1:17pm

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is downplaying news that two sets of Justice Department lawyers produced different opinions on the constitutionality of the D.C. voting rights bill.

News reports indicated Wednesday that Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this year overrode an opinion by lawyers in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that the D.C. voting rights bill is unconstitutional. Holder, who supports the House bill, instead ordered up a second opinion from lawyers in the office of the solicitor general.

Hoyer said he didn’t think Holder was playing politics by rejecting the OLC attorneys’ opinion. “He disagreed,— Hoyer said. “This is a serious question. People of good will can differ.—

The issue of the constitutionality of the D.C. voting rights bill has been raised in committee hearings over the years and “will continue to be raised,— Hoyer said. He said the bill responds to this with a provision that provides for accelerated consideration of that issue by the court.

Hoyer dismissed the idea that legal disagreements within the Justice Department would complicate matters for the bill.

“The gun amendment complicates things, not this,— he said. The bill has been delayed by pro-gun lawmakers seeking to attach an amendment to the bill that would weaken city gun laws.

Asked when he expects to be able to move the bill to the floor, Hoyer said he hopes to get it done in the work session that begins after the two-week spring recess.