- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The House will not vote on a bill to grant the District of Columbia a voting member of Congress, the majority leader said Tuesday.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said he would not bring the bill to the floor because it cannot reach the floor without add-ons that he cannot accept, such as gun rights in the city.

“I do not see the ability to move it in this session of Congress,” Mr. Hoyer said, calling the lack of a voting representative “a blight on democracy.”

Mr. Hoyer repeatedly said he ls deeply disappointed by the decision, but said he was not going to let voting rights be held hostage to other issues.

“The price was too high,” he said.

The bill under consideration would have turned the District’s non-voting delegate to Congress into a member with full voting rights, and would have added a new seat in Utah. That compromise was meant to preserve the political balance since Utah was likely to elect a Republican, and the District consistently votes Democratic.

But when the measure passed the Senate last year lawmakers attached an amendment that expanded gun rights in the city beyond what the city’s council is willing to accept. House Democratic leaders have spent the last year trying to figure out a way to strip the gun-rights language, but failed.

Earlier this week they said they were prepared to vote on the measure even with gun rights included.

“I believe residents would not want us to pass up this once-in-a-life-time opportunity for the vote they have sought for more than two centuries,” Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s non-voting member, she said on Monday.

But on Tuesday she said the National Rifle Association sent Democrats new gun-rights language over the weekend, and the new provisions were “egregious.” She also said they would likely have cost the support needed from “anti-gun Democratic senators” who would have to vote on a final compromise bill.

She also said she was blindsided by “vocal and strident opposition” from Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, who has objected to the way the Utah seat would be set up.

House Democrats would have allowed an at-large seat to be elected statewide, but Mr. Hatch wants a fourth district to be carved out of the state instead, and said the House version would have pushed a Washington solution onto his home state.

“If the choice is between this deeply flawed bill and no bill at all, no bill is hands down the better option,” the senator said.

Mrs. Norton said she’s already at work on a new strategy to pass a congressional representation bill.

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