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Republican Leaders React to Voting Rights Bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) held a news conference today, at which they were asked about the Senate's vote for cloture on the D.C. Voting Rights bill. McConnell opposed the move, but Murkowski voted in favor of cloture, despite having voted the other way two years ago when the bill failed to reach the Senate floor for debate. Here is the official transcript:

MCCONNELL: Well, I think there are different views among members
of my -- let me give you my view. My view is that it's
unconstitutional. There is a way to give the District of Columbia
members of Congress. And it's to go through the constitutional
amendment process.

This is to try to do by statute that which the constitution
requires you to do by constitutional amendment. So I think we all
know on both sides of this question, it'll end up in court and,
ultimately, the Supreme Court will determine whether or not you can do
this by statute.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) do you differ from your colleagues
(inaudible) previously (inaudible). Why are you (inaudible)?

MURKOWSKI: The people of the District of Columbia have expressed
quite clearly that we want to have this debate. I think we should
have this debate. I happen to agree with Leader McConnell that the
provisions that we will vote on are unconstitutional. I'd like to see
a constitutional amendment just as was passed by the House and the
Senate back in the '70s and, unfortunately, only ratified by 16

I'd like to take it back to that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)?

MURKOWSKI: Because I think it's important that we have the
debate here in the Senate, have an opportunity to look at the options
that are in front of us, whether it's a constitutional amendment.
You've seen the discussion about how you might be able to have the
residents be essentially covered by the state of Maryland, the
retrocession issue.

And I think it's important for the people here to know that this
debate is going on and to allow for that to proceed.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)?

MURKOWSKI: I'll be voting against the bill.

QUESTION: What about (inaudible) 51st state?

MURKOWSKI: Alaska is happy, as the 49th. But, you know, we just
finished -- we just finished 50 years of statehood. I'm in a pretty
young state who just, you know -- it's fresh in our mind what it means
to not be one of the 50 states.

But look at our Constitution. How the District of Columbia is
treated is entirely different than the territory of the state of
Alaska or our 50th state, which was the territory of Hawaii.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)?

MURKOWSKI: Yes, I would.

QUESTION: Senator, how does the (inaudible) make the case of
outreach to minorities and people of color when the position like D.C.
statehood seems to be lockstep with historical past presidents and
stuff like that? How do you make the case to the Republican Party
(inaudible) diverse and the residents of the District of Columbia
(inaudible) they don't...

MURKOWSKI: I don't look at it that way. I'm not looking at it
that way at all. I'm looking at whether or not the people in the
District of Columbia have an opportunity to be represented in the
Congress. Simple as that.

By David A Nakamura  |  February 24, 2009; 3:17 PM ET
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