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D.C. Vote Bill Gets Going in House

The House Judiciary Committee has begun its debate on the D.C. voting rights bill, with the panel's chairman declaring that the measure "brings democracy to a part of America that has been oddly left out."

John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) opened a hearing this afternoon with an appeal for the bill, which would give the District its first full seat in the House, and add a seat for Utah. The panel is expected to vote later today on the bill, sending it to the House for more action.

Conyers said that the bill, which stalled in the Senate two years ago, was "an attempt to correct a 200-year-old injustice -- the disenfranchisement of what has now grown to be over half a million Americans living in the nation's capital."

"This legislation brings democracy to a part of America that has been oddly left out," Conyers said. "We are the only democratic society in the world where citizens living in the national capital are denied fair representation in their legislature."

Like many of the bill's opponents, the ranking Republican member of the committee, Lamar Smith, raised constitutional questions. The panel is considering various amendments, including one that calls for an expedited court review of the bill's legality.

The session took place as the Senate held its own debate on the bill.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and other officials are awaiting the outcome of the judiciary committee's vote with plans to hold a news conference later this afternoon.

-- Michael E. Ruane

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  February 25, 2009; 4:12 PM ET
Categories:  Voting Rights  
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