- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on a bill to give a House seat to the District. Yet it”s still not clear whether there are enough supporters to overcome an attempt by Republican leaders to block the measure.

Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, said last week that he will vote for the bill only if it includes two amendments that would address his concerns about its constitutionality.

One would prevent it from being used to give the District representation in the Senate.

“If this bill becomes a covert way to give D.C. two senators, I want no part of it,” he said. “For a single city to have the status of a state in the U.S. Senate is unacceptable under the Constitution.”

The bill, which will face a procedural vote tomorrow, would give a House seat to the District, a largely Democratic city, and another for Utah, a mostly Republican state.

The bill”s supporters are optimistic. If the bill receives enough votes, it would then face a full Senate vote. However, the White House has said it would veto the bill.

“I feel very strongly they”ll be able to get the support to bring democracy to the District of Columbia for the first time in 206 years,” said Kevin Kiger, spokesman for the advocacy group DC Vote.

Still, Mr. Bennett and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, also of Utah, are among a very small number of Republicans who have openly said they will vote for the bill.

Several Republicans oppose it because they say the Constitution gives only states a House vote, meaning it would be unconstitutional to give the District a voting member. They have said they will try to block the bill.

D.C. voting rights advocates call the issue the most important civil rights struggle of the day. The District has a delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, but she is allowed to vote only in House committees.

Utah was added to the bill in hopes of winning more Republican support. Conservative Utah is expected to elect a Republican to the new seat, while D.C. voters would almost certainly choose a Democrat.

Utah missed a fourth House seat by just 857 persons in 2000. Officials have argued that the government should have counted more than 11,000 Mormon missionaries living overseas.

Mr. Hatch and other supporters have argued that if Congress can tax D.C. residents and grant them other rights, it can give them a full-fledged member of the House.

But Mr. Bennett said Friday that he has long “recognized the many constitutional concerns voiced by my colleagues” about the bill.

He said he will push for an amendment that would nullify the bill if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the District has the right to two senators.

He also said he wants to amend the bill to ensure that Utah would keep its seat even if the Supreme Court were to rule that the District”s seat is unconstitutional.

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