- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 4, 2001

Welcome to Washington, ladies and gentlemen. By the way, would you mind getting our House vote back?

That's the message about 150 D.C. residents sent to members of the 107th Congress yesterday as the senators and representatives arrived for their first day of work on Capitol Hill.

Members of D.C. Vote, a nonprofit group working to urge Congress to restore the city's full voting representation in the U.S. House, spent most of the day hand-delivering hundreds of gift bags to each congressional office.

Once inside, the group members talked to aides or to senators and representatives themselves, if they were lucky and made their pitch about restoring the District's vote on the House floor.

"Today the citizens of the District of Columbia are embarking on an extraordinary effort to make the members of the new Congress aware of the city, the historic neighborhoods and the people who live where they serve," said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, the group's executive director.

"As members of the 107th Congress look for opportunities for bipartisan cooperation, we believe that full enfranchisement for the 575,000 residents of the District should be at the top of their list."

The gift bags contained "Taxation Without Representation" bumper stickers and other literature on D.C. Vote's cause.

Also included were a coupon for a free baguette at Marvelous Market; a $15 gift certificate at Toasted Strawberries, a women's clothing store in Dupont Circle; postcards from Ben's Chili Bowl; and magazines and tourist guides featuring Washington, D.C.

Many lawmakers were not around to greet the residents or accept the gift bags. They were either waiting to be sworn into office or were being honored at receptions. So, their staff members accepted the gifts.

Some staff members, like Marianne Clifford Upton, who works for Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, were awaiting the group's arrival at their offices yesterday.

"I knew you guys were going to come," Ms. Upton told D.C. Vote member Joe Sternlieb as he gave her the gift bag. "I saw you guys on the news [Tuesday night], and I was waiting for you to drop by."

Late Tuesday night, House Republicans rejected the District's bid for voting representation in Congress and restoration of D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton's limited voting privilege on the House floor.

Mrs. Norton lost her vote in 1995, when the Republican House majority rescinded a rule Democrats set in 1993 giving the District delegate a vote in the Committee of the Whole when the entire House meets.

By the end of the day yesterday, D.C. Vote members were pleased with their mission.

"We were thrilled about how things went," Ms. Slemmer said. "They were all incredibly receptive, very kind and interested in our fight. And we'll continue to move ahead in our fight."


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