Gray: Obama backs vote for D.C.

Mayor-elect also pushed education at White House

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D.C. Mayor-elect Vincent Gray met Wednesday with President Obama at the White House, where Mr. Gray said Mr. Obama repeated his support for the city getting a member of Congress with full voting rights.

Speaking outside the White House afterward, Mr. Gray said they also discussed improving public education, the Department of Homeland Security headquarters being built in Southeast Washington and changing the license tags on the presidential limo to the city’s “Taxation Without Representation” plate. The statement reflects the fact that city residents pay taxes but do not have a vote in Congress.

“The president really wants to work closely with our city,” said Mr. Gray, who will take office in January.

Mr. Obama has supported D.C. voting rights legislation, but a bill to provide a full-voting member of Congress to the city was pulled before a House vote this year after Republicans insisted that the measure include Senate-backed language to weaken the city’s strict laws on guns. The city currently has a delegate to the House of Representatives, Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat.

It will be more difficult to get the bill passed with more Republicans coming into Congress. Mr. Gray, however, said Mr. Obama on Wednesday reiterated his support for the idea.

“He said, ‘I’m unequivocally in support of voting rights for the District of Columbia,’ ” Mr. Gray said.

But Mr. Obama didn’t appear to want to take that support to the presidential limo.

“I talked to him about the license plates, and we didn’t come to a decision on what to do about that. I think that’s something that we will discuss further,” Mr. Gray said.

President Bill Clinton put the tags on the limo, but they were taken off by President George W. Bush. City groups have urged Mr. Obama to restore them. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs previously dismissed the idea, saying the president was “committed instead to changing the status of the District of Columbia.”

The mayor-elect said he and the president also talked specifically about early childhood education and unemployment. Mr. Gray said he asked for money to support infrastructure development around the DHS headquarters being built in the southeast part of the city.

“The last thing we want to have is just another enclave, a government enclave in Southeast Washington,” Mr. Gray said.

He said that the meeting was the start of communication between the two men.

“There will be many meetings in the aftermath of this,” he predicted. “He says, ‘I want to do more in the city.’ He says, ‘I want to do more for the city,’ ” Mr. Gray quoted Mr. Obama as saying.

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