Hoyer: D.C. Voting Bill Can't Pass 'At This Point'
By Paul Kane
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said today that congressional leaders have given up on trying to approve the D.C. voting rights legislation until the District Council comes to consensus on accepting a companion bill supported by gun-rights supporters.
Hoyer said there was no way to approve the measure without a gun amendment that does away with the District's strict gun-control laws and makes it difficult for District officials to restrict gun rights in the future. That measure has left local officials and residents divided over whether the right to have a vote in Congress, after more than 200 years of non-voting representation by a delegate, trumps sacrificing control over the city's gun laws, which are considered some of the strictest in the nation and resulted in a Supreme Court ruling last year overturning the ban on all hand guns.
"There is not a consensus among the leadership of the District of Columbia on this issue as I understand it. And as a result of there not being consensus, I don't think we're going to be able to move the bill at this point in time," said Hoyer, whose dual role as a House leader and resident of neighboring Prince George's County has made him the point man on Capitol Hill on the voting rights legislation.
The measure would expand the House permanently by two seats, to 437 members, giving one of the seats to the District of Columbia and another to Utah, which just missed out on receiving an additional seat during the decennial reapportionment of House seats after the 2000 Census.
However, an overwhelming majority of lawmakers in both chambers supported the gun rights amendment, offered in the House by Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and in the Senate by John Ensign (R-Nev.). Despite the gun-control positions of most leaders in congressional Democratic ranks, the Democrats have had huge electoral successes in the 2006 and 2008 elections by electing pro-gun Democrats from rural and southern regions, who like to appear in campaign commercials toting shotguns.
More than 20 Democrats supported the gun amendment in the Senate, and more than 100 House Democrats supported the gun amendment there.
"It's clear that the [gun rights amendment] has a majority of votes," Hoyer said, calling it "difficult if not impossible" to even consider the voting rights measure on the House floor without the gun amendment.
"I will not give up on this bill. I will continue to work it," Hoyer said, but he put the onus on the future of voting rights squarely on the shoulders of local officials.
"At this point in time, as I said, we don't have consensus," he said
June 9, 2009; 3:03 PM ET
Categories: Dem. Leaders , House
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