More Strategizing on D.C. Vote; Norton Sends Letter
Post writer Mary Beth Sheridan reports that neither Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton nor House Leader Steny Hoyer have given up on the District voting bill. There was a strategy meeting yesterday, and Hoyer says while the bill won't come back this week, it will return before year's end.
Norton also wrote to each conservative and moderate member of the House Democratic Caucus and to all new House members. Here is the full text of that letter:
May I thank you again for your vote last session for the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act. I was especially proud that our Democratic Caucus supplied most of the votes for the people of the nation's capital to be represented in the "People's House," among the most basic of civil rights. Your vote for the bill was emblematic of the big tent political coalition we call the Democratic Party that originated with the administration of FDR, when Members who opposed civil rights bills and African Americans, who had been Lincoln Republicans, first came together in the same party under the New Deal. For decades, however, we have consistently overcome the old differences among Democrats on civil rights and race. Whatever our views on other issues, civil rights has been a unifying, signature issue for Democrats.
This overarching commitment was put at risk last week by the unprecedented National Rifle Association (NRA) threat to score the rule for a bipartisan bill granting a House vote for the District of Columbia and a new seat for Utah without a gun amendment. The NRA threat produced a formidable response from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the coalition of more than 200 national organizations, which announced that it would score a rule for the first time since it was established in 1950 if a gun amendment were made in order on this civil rights bill. Almost all Democrats who regularly support gun legislation also have top LCCR ratings.
Almost 35 years ago, Congress confronted a similar but even more challenging task when it granted District of Columbia residents their first civic rights as American citizens, by granting them partial home rule and a House delegate. Some in our own party had blocked home rule and a delegate for the residents of the nation's capital for 150 years because of the minority of District residents who were African Americans. Ironically, a Democratic Congress gave D.C. residents these rights only when the city became a majority African-American jurisdiction and the national civil rights movement came to the District.
The consistent support of our Democratic Caucus for equal rights, regardless of our differences on other issues, has been so strong for so long that I have no doubt we can remain a unified party on civil rights and avoid an unprecedented split in our ranks on this civil rights bill. I ask you simply to repeat what virtually every Democrat did last session. Please vote for a clean rule to allow the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act to come to the floor and be considered on its own merits.
Eleanor Holmes Norton
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