- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

President Obama should be doing more to win voting rights for the District of Columbia, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray said Tuesday.

In a wide-ranging interview with reporters and editors at The Washington Times, Mr. Gray said he’s been disappointed by the president’s lack of action, especially after the city supported Mr. Obama so overwhelmingly in the election.

“He is an incredibly eloquent and brilliant man who has tremendous influence both of because of who he is personally as well as being the president of the United States, and I think his vocal support of the issue could really have helped to move this along more quickly than it has,” Mr. Gray said.

For years the city has been battling to gain full voting rights in Congress. The latest effort was pulled from the House floor after threats that the bill would be amended to include language that would water down the city’s gun laws.

Mr. Gray said he did not think a voting rights bill amended to weaken the city’s gun laws should be passed, noting that if the voting rights law was challenged by the Supreme Court, the city could have ended up without voting rights and with vastly different gun laws.

And not only has the president not lent his voice to the ongoing debate over whether the city should be given voting rights or even statehood, Mr. Gray said, the White House has ignored his letter requesting that Mr. Obama restore license plates to the presidential limousine that bear the logo “Taxation Without Representation.”

In response to a reporter’s questions in June, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs addressed the license plate issue.

“I think rather than change the logo around the license plate, the president is committed instead to changing the status of the District of Columbia, ” Mr. Gibbs said.

President Clinton had the license plates affixed to the presidential limousine shortly after they became available in 2000. Upon taking office, President George W. Bush had the plates removed.

“It seems incredibly hypocritical to me that we live in a nation that was founded on taxation without representation, that people died for to be able to establish the independence of this nation, and yet we won’t afford the same rights to the people of the District of Columbia,” Mr. Gray said.

Earlier in the interview, Mr. Gray did say that the city has a relatively young history of governing itself, which presents special challenges. Regardless, the city will not lose its desire for representation, he said.

“The resolve will be sustained,” Mr. Gray said, declining to speculate on a timetable for success.

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