- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform yesterday voted in favor of a bill granting the District congressional voting rights, moving the measure one step closer to a full House vote by the end of the month.

“I have long supported granting the District a vote in Congress,” said Chairman Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat. “I am pleased to have the opportunity today to move [the bill] through this committee.”

Committee members approved the bill on a 24-5 vote.

The bill is slated for a hearing today in the Judiciary Committee, where lawmakers are expected to debate its constitutionality. Judiciary members also are scheduled to work on the bill tomorrow.

Supporters hope the measure will be brought to the House floor by the end of the month.

Congress is scheduled to recess April 2.

“This is the first step in the legislative process in a new Congress, and the first step was a win for proponents of the bill,” said Ilir Zherka, executive director of the advocacy group D.C. Vote. “It gives us momentum.”

The bill would grant the District, which leans heavily Democratic, a full vote in the House and would create an additional at-large seat for Utah, a state that leans Republican.

The measure moved through the Government Oversight and Reform Committee with two amendments that advocates considered minor.

One amendment added language stating that the District was once a part of Maryland. The other amendment, offered by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, Georgia Republican, attempted to rule out representation for D.C. residents in the Senate.

But Mr. Zherka said Congress is not allowed to restrict future sessions in such a way, and the amendment was more “tongue-in-cheek” to make a point.

“It has no practical effect,” he said.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, is the bill’s primary sponsor. She said the amendment was an attempt by Republicans to detract from the bill and was not worth a debate.

She said the amendment likely will be removed before the bill goes to the floor.

“I have been crystal clear that residents will not give up until they get their full citizenship rights,” said Mrs. Norton, a Democrat. “And that stands now and until the last right has been granted.”


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