House Will Not Consider D.C. Voting Rights, Hoyer Says

Posted April 20, 2010 at 10:04am

Updated: 12:24 p.m.

The long-anticipated D.C. voting rights bill will not be considered on the House floor this week and will likely not be considered this session, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday morning.

Hoyer announced the news at a weekly meeting with reporters, saying that he is “extraordinarily disappointed” that “every Member of Congress is not fighting” to bring the bill to a vote on the floor. He said he made the decision after consulting with D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D).

“It is a blight on democracy that we have not done so,” Hoyer said. “That bill should be unfettered by any other provision.”

The bill has been plagued by opposition in Congress and from the D.C. Council ever since an amendment was attached to it that would alter the District’s gun laws.
Norton released a statement saying that she elected to pull the bill after seeing a updated version of the gun language that the National Rifle Association planned to have attached to the bill.

“I cannot agree to these egregious changes, not only because they make the already bad gun attachment to the D.C. voting rights bill even worse than I thought was possible, but also because the new sections will surely bring down the support we have had of anti-gun Democratic Senators,” Norton said.
The new language would prevent the District from prohibiting the carrying of firearms by persons in public, according to Norton.

Hoyer said the fault “lies with those who do not honor the right of the District of Columbia to have a voting representative and want to use this legislation as a vehicle for issues that they have.”

The bill was expected to be considered as early as Wednesday and would give one Congressional seat to D.C. and another temporary seat to the conservative-leaning Utah. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) stated his opposition to the bill last week, arguing against giving Utah a fourth at-large seat in the House. Hatch expressed concern over one Representative having three times as many constituents as the other three. She also said Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R) threat to filibuster the Senate bill was a factor in her decision.

“This legislation made a mockery of our system of federalism by dictating to the State of Utah how it chooses its elected representatives,” Hatch said in a statement Tuesday. “This type of arrogant, Washington-knows-best attitude is exactly why people are so angry, and why I’m glad this legislation will not move forward through the House.”

Hoyer says a combination of issues ultimately caused him to pull the bill, but he added that he hoped the bill could be considered “sometime in the near future.”

“This legislation should be focused solely on the central premise of American democracy — that citizens have a fundamental right to be represented in the policymaking body of their country, a representative not just with a voice, but a vote,” Hoyer said.