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DC Voting Rights unlikely to move with defense bill

Updated 4:00 p.m.
By Ben Pershing
Congressional Democrats are leaning strongly against attaching D.C. Voting Rights legislation to a must-pass defense spending bill, as the complex politics of gun rights and a crowded appropriations schedule have closed off another potential avenue for the stalled local priority.

The D.C. bill, which would give the city a representative with full voting rights in the House (and give another House seat to GOP-leaning Utah), has been stuck in neutral since February, when the Senate passed the measure but added an amendment that would repeal most of the district's gun-control laws. The move angered local leaders, but pro-gun rights measures command strong support in both the House and Senate, making it difficult for Democrats to move the voting rights bill on its own.

Democratic leaders had in recent weeks been considering a new solution -- attaching the voting rights bill, without the gun language, to the conference report for the fiscal 2010 defense appropriations bill, which is certain to pass and will not be subject to amendment. But while no final decision has been made, House Democratic sources, requesting anonymity to discuss legislative strategy, said this week that leaders are now highly unlikely to use that maneuver.

Even though the voting rights bill would be moving without the controversial gun-rights legislation, Democrats fear that if they did use the defense measure, the National Rifle Association would "score" the vote as though it were directly related to the gun issue. Interest groups across the ideological spectrum rate the voting records of members of Congress, but few have as much clout as the NRA. If the group announced that it was scoring a vote for the defense bill (and the D.C. Voting Rights measure) as a vote against gun rights, it would put Democrats -- particularly those from conservative and rural districts -- in a very tough spot.

An NRA source said that while the organization did not make any specific threat, it did convey this message to lawmakers: "Should voting rights legislation move without the gun rights bill attached, we would have concerns."

The voting rights/defense maneuver is also unlikely to happen because the vehicle Democrats were eying may end up being too full to fit another passenger.

Because it has to pass, the defense appropriations bill is always an attractive place for Hill leaders to attach unrelated bills. So Democrats are currently considering using the defense bill to move an increase in the federal debt limit, and they may end up making the defense bill the base measure for an omnibus spending package -- encompassing all the other unpassed appropriations bills -- later this year. Adding the D.C. bill on top of that might be too much weight for one measure to carry.

And while members of the Democratic leadership, led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, are eager to see the voting rights bill pass, top members of the appropriations committees are wary of mixing up their bills with the voting rights/gun rights controversy. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the head of the Appropriations subcommittee on defense, is himself a supporter of gun rights. And Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of that chamber's Appropriations Committee, is also opposed to the idea.

"Forget it," Inouye told Politico Tuesday.

Despite this setback, supporters of the D.C. bill have not given up hope that they can get the measure moved this year.

"We continue to look to bring the DC Voting Rights Act to the floor as soon as we have consensus on how to move forward," said Hoyer spokeswoman Stephanie Lundberg.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the primary driver of the voting rights issue in the House, said in an interview Wednesday that using the defense bill was only one of "a menu of vehicles" she had presented to leadership, and there were plenty of avenues left for the measure's supporters to pursue.

As for the gun issue, Norton said that the NRA's scoring system shouldn't be taken so seriously, citing as an example the fact that the organization elected to score the Senate vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. (Sotomayor prevailed, 68-31, despite the NRA's opposition.)

"The score is getting to be not worth much," Norton said, adding: "People are not always going to vote for guns no matter what. ... I don't think House and Senate members are sheep."

By Ben Pershing  |  October 28, 2009; 11:57 AM ET
Categories:  Purse Strings  
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Comments

Unlike other US territories and possessions without voting rights, we in DC pay Federal income tax. I, for one, would GLADLY abandon voting representation if they'd repeal the Federal income tax for DC residents.

This is something, I think, that the Republicans in Congress could get behind.

Posted by: weisenheimer | October 28, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

D.C. cannot have voting rights unless granted by a Constitutional amendment.

This is pandering to the fatherless welfare constituency inherent there.

God help us all.

Posted by: tjhall1 | October 28, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Alas, I fear that the current shenanigans of the DC Government - the press attention to which is noted by Congresspersons and their staffs - aren't doing much to help the cause.

Posted by: nan_lynn | October 28, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Chicken@*%$

Posted by: therev1 | October 28, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Unlike other US territories and possessions without voting rights, we in DC pay Federal income tax. I, for one, would GLADLY abandon voting representation if they'd repeal the Federal income tax for DC residents.

This is something, I think, that the Republicans in Congress could get behind.

Posted by: weisenheimer | October 28, 2009 1:23 PM

That would be fine but then you know you would also have to give up Fed. subsidies. So then what would you do???? DC doesn't have enough citizens working to foot the bills so you would lose out. I would rethink the plan if I we're you.

Posted by: askgees | October 28, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Seriously nan-lyn? DC has a median household income higher than 80% of the states and a single parent household rate of 10% as reported in the Post just today. This rate is below the national average. Your comments seem to have a racial undercurrent.

Posted by: dcguy20001 | October 28, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

"Unlike other US territories and possessions without voting rights, we in DC pay Federal income tax. I, for one, would GLADLY abandon voting representation if they'd repeal the Federal income tax for DC residents.
This is something, I think, that the Republicans in Congress could get behind.
Posted by: weisenheimer | October 28, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse "

if this ever happened, watch for mass evictions as the owners of rental property would rather live in d.c. themselves and rent to others for thousands of dollars dumping the residents in Maryland...
I don't think Virginia wants them...

Posted by: DwightCollins | October 28, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

So sad, too bad.

Posted by: RealityCheckerInEffect | October 28, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

"That would be fine but then you know you would also have to give up Fed. subsidies."

No we wouldn't have to give up Fed subsidies, just ask Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, etc., etc., etc.

Posted by: weisenheimer | October 28, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

So, what's wrong with attaching the pro-gun measure to the voting rights amendment to the defense authorization bill?

Murtha is pro-gun rights for DC citizens. What's wrong with Hoyer? His state has gun stores, but he doesn't want people across the line to be able to buy guns without the ridiculous DC restrictions?

And why doesn't the NRA give a response?

Posted by: cfan1 | October 28, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

tjhall1, askgees, etc:

I work, pay lots of taxes, own a home, volunteer, and am otherwise a pretty upstanding citizen (and I live in SE DC). I certainly deserve to vote in national elections as much as anyone in Virginia or Maryland. Your ugly stereotypes betray a great deal of ignorance with regards to my city, and are nothing close to a legitimate reason to deny anyone the right to vote.

Posted by: monongahela79 | October 28, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

dcguy, I'm sorry, but I don't follow your train of thought. Or perhaps you didn't follow mine.

All I said - or rather meant - was that the brouhaha surrounding issues of corruption and competence among DC Government officials (whether or not the critiques are justified; that is another discussion) can provide ample fodder to justify a vote against further DC representation for those in Congress who are already so inclined.

And if you read carefully, you will notice that I didn't applaud the situation.

No racial undertones. No undertones at all... except maybe one of wishing for better government, on all levels.

Posted by: nan_lynn | October 28, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

"This is pandering to the fatherless welfare constituency inherent there."

---

Your inner bigot is showing.

Posted by: Crucialitis | October 28, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

weisenheimer said:

Unlike other US territories and possessions without voting rights, we in DC pay Federal income tax. I, for one, would GLADLY abandon voting representation if they'd repeal the Federal income tax for DC residents.

This is something, I think, that the Republicans in Congress could get behind.

Then said askgees:

That would be fine but then you know you would also have to give up Fed. subsidies. So then what would you do???? DC doesn't have enough citizens working to foot the bills so you would lose out. I would rethink the plan if I we're you.

--------------------------
Actually, the people who work would benefit from both the elimination of income taxes AND the loss of the District's subsidized residents -- who would quickly move to a more accommodating (that is, subsidized) environment. That sounds like an excellent idea.

Posted by: DC_Realist | October 28, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Seriously DC guy said:

Seriously nan-lyn? DC has a median household income higher than 80% of the states and a single parent household rate of 10% as reported in the Post just today. This rate is below the national average. Your comments seem to have a racial undercurrent.

Posted by: dcguy20001 | October 28, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse


-------------------------------------

You seem to be asserting that DC's residents are on average better off than 80% of residents in other states. I live in the District and know this fact is not true empirically.

It is true that DC's average income is relatively high (top 32% of the country according to the most recent census data (ACS) I could find for 09, but that covers the HIGHLY skewed income picture.

On a zip code basis, 20007, 20016 and 20032 probably account for most of the skewing (and represent 25% of the District's residents at best), and (sorry my friend in 20001) the rest of the zip codes are pretty poor on average.

Nice try though.

Posted by: DC_Realist | October 28, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

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