WASHINGTON | President Barack Obama urged lawmakers Friday to give the District of Columbia a voting member of Congress.
A bill to give the city just that is expected to be brought for a vote in the House next week. Many advocates for D.C. voting rights believe this year could be their last opportunity in a long time if Democrats lose their majority in Congress in the fall.
Obama made the push in a statement in honor of Emancipation Day, a D.C. holiday commemorating President Abraham Lincoln's freeing of the slaves in Washington, nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation. D.C. leaders have used the holiday as an occasion to push for full voting rights for the city.
"Americans from all walks of life are gathering in Washington today to remind members of Congress that although D.C. residents pay federal taxes and serve honorably in our armed services, they do not have a vote in Congress or full autonomy over local issues. And so I urge Congress to finally pass legislation that provides DC residents with voting representation and to take steps to improve the Home Rule Charter," Obama said.
The Senate passed a bill granting D.C. a vote more than a year ago, but senators added an amendment to repeal strict gun laws in the city. The bill had since stalled in the House.
The bill is still expected to include a version of that amendment.
Some D.C. leaders are critical of the plan, saying it's wrong to bargain away the weapons restrictions in exchange for a vote. But others, including Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city's nonvoting member of Congress, have said it's better to get the vote now and work later to restore the gun laws.
The bill would actually add two new members, one for the Democrat-heavy district and another for the Republican-leaning Utah, which was just shy of getting another seat during the last census.