Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The Senate passed a key preliminary vote Tuesday morning for the District to get full voting rights in Congress. Senators voted 62-34 to take up the legislation. A final Senate vote to approve the legislation could come as early as Tuesday afternoon.

The legislation failed on a similar vote last year, though it passed in the House. The House passed the legislation in 2007 and is beginning work on the bill tomorrow. A full vote could come as early as next month.

District residents have waited roughly 200 years for full voting rights. The legislation would give the Democratic-leaning District one vote and the Republican-leaning Utah another House vote.

Members of the D.C. Council attended the vote, and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, both Democrats, were on the Senate floor.

Debate before the procedural move featured supporters and opponents of the bill espousing their views.

“A grave injustice has been done to the residents of the District simply because they live in the United States capital,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent and chief sponsor of the Senate bill.

Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, argued that a bill granting the District congressional representation is sure to face a legal challenge if passed.

“The Senate should not pass legislation that we believe is unconstitutional,” Mr. Kyl said. “We should not pass the buck to the courts.”

Critics say the bill violates Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that “representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states.”

The District is not considered a state and is largely overseen by Congress.

Supporters say Congress has the power to give the District a representative because of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which states that Congress must “exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District.

The Supreme Court could likely decide the issue.

Utah now has one Democratic representative and two Republicans in the House and is the next to receive a new seat based on the 2000 census.

The bill has support from several other prominent Utah politicians, including Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, a Republican and bill co-sponsor.

Debate of the bill began Monday when Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, who recently crossed party lines to support of President Obama’s economic-stimulus package, added his name as a co-sponsor to the bill.

“It is long past due to have a voting seat for the District of Columbia,” he said.

Supporters think the bill has a good chance of passing this year.

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