- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2007

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer yesterday said the chamber will consider a resolution next week to allow D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton to vote on changes to proposed legislation.

“The purpose is our democracy,” Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said on the House floor yesterday.

Democrats, now in the majority, likely have the votes to pass such a rule change when it comes up Wednesday.

Republican leaders, who for more than a decade have not allowed Mrs. Norton a vote, complained that Mr. Hoyer’s speech was the “first notice” they had been given about the upcoming vote, which would require majority approval for passage.

Mrs. Norton said she is pleased with the plan and hopes it will inspire more changes. She said the small step pales in comparison with her priority of achieving full voting rights for the District.

“I think it’s a good thing to do,” said Mrs. Norton, a Democrat. “I suppose you could say it will hold me over till I get the whole vote.”

If the measure is approved, Mrs. Norton would be able to add amendments and vote on legislation, except when it is before the House for final passage. Other members could request a new vote without Mrs. Norton’s ballot if she casts a deciding vote.

Mrs. Norton, serving her ninth term in Congress, had similar privileges during the Democratic-controlled 103rd Congress. However, the Republican majority withdrew them in 1995.

The D.C. delegate said she was disappointed that congressional leaders did not just include the vote in the rules package adopted by the House earlier this year.

She also said her more pressing goal is to push for passage of the D.C. voting rights bill, which she hopes will be marked up next month and come to the House floor for a vote in March.

The rules change “was a big step forward in 1993,” Mrs. Norton said. “If that was what we were left with this year, it would be a big step backward.”

The voting rights bill — originally introduced in May by Mrs. Norton and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican — would give one vote to the District, which is predominantly Democratic, and another to Utah, a mostly Republican state.

Mrs. Norton and Mr. Davis reintroduced the measure in the new Democratic-controlled Congress after the previous Republican-controlled Congress adjourned without bringing the bill to a vote.

Both Mr. Hoyer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, have expressed support for giving the District a full vote in Congress.

Hoyer spokeswoman Stacey Farnen-Bernards said the change in rules is “not a substitute for the D.C. vote.”

Davis spokesman Brian McNicoll said the congressman has supported the committee vote for Mrs. Norton since 2000, but he reiterated that the ultimate goal is for the District to have a full vote in Congress.

“Our focus is the whole enchilada, to get [Mrs. Norton] a vote in Congress,” Mr. McNicoll said. “This certainly could get these guys in the habit of voting for this.”

The rules change would also allow votes for delegates from the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Puerto Rico, and has sparked some debate on the House floor.

Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said the move was “controversial” in the 1990s and wondered whether the purpose of the change was simply to add four Democratic votes on the House floor.

“The majority is in the majority. Four of these five delegates are on the majority’s side,” Mr. Blunt said.

Meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and other voting rights advocates yesterday announced several initiatives aimed at achieving full congressional voting rights.

Advocates released a copy of a letter sent yesterday to Mrs. Pelosi asking for early congressional action on the Norton-Davis bill. Plans are also in the works for voting rights volunteers to lobby members of Congress on Feb. 15.

Mr. Fenty is also planning a voting rights march from Freedom Plaza to the Capitol on April 16.

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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