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Senator threatens to block D.C. voting rights bill

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a leading sponsor of legislation to give the District a vote in the House, dampened expectations for voting rights advocates Thursday when he announced opposition to a bill scheduled to move forward as early as next week.

Hatch, whose support for the effort had been critical to its success in the Senate last year, said he would filibuster a bill and vote against it if the measure passes the House.

Under a political compromise, the bill would add two seats to the House: one to the overwhelmingly Democratic District and the other to the Republican-leaning Utah. Hatch said in a statement that he objects to the House version of the bill that would create a statewide seat for Utah, instead of a fourth district seat.

"Utah deserves an additional seat in the House, but like every other state it should have the freedom to elect its House members from regular districts," he said.

Hatch said the bill would give one House member three times as many constituents as the three other representatives.

"The solution to this ridiculous confusion is simply to let Utah elect its House members its own way."

The bill's co-sponsor in the Senate, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), remains committed to the legislation, his spokesperson Leslie Phillips said in an email Thursday.

Hatch's announcement comes one day after House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the bill would come to the floor for a vote as early as next week.

With Hatch's support last year, the Senate passed a D.C. voting rights bill on a 61 to 37 vote. The measure stalled in the House after lawmakers in the Senate attached language that would repeal most local gun control laws.

It is unclear whether there would be the required 60 votes in the Senate to move forward with the bill if Hatch filibusters.

"We don't know that we have them, but we think they are certainly within reach," said Ilir Zherka, executive director of the advocacy group DC Vote.

By Ann Marimow  |  April 15, 2010; 2:52 PM ET
Categories:  Ann E. Marimow , Voting Rights  
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I agree with Hatch on this one. if utah is given another seat, it should be a district seat not statewide.
of course, the obvious answer is to just give DC its own representative with no strings attached.

Posted by: MarilynManson | April 15, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Believe that giving DC a seat will be a waste, and is probably not constitutional.

DC has screwed up everything its touched. With the exception of Wms and perhaps Washington, the elected mayors have been clowns or worse, the schools have been a wasteland, and contracting practices have been terrible.

Perhaps Md will accept them as a city?

Posted by: almelbe | April 15, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks we have a gun ban in DC doesn't live anywhere near where I live. Please, alter our gun laws, they only exist on paper anyways.

I want retrocession to MD myself.

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | April 15, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

almelbe, there is nothing that requires jurisdictions in other areas to have perfect mayors and excellent schools. maybe part of the problem with this town is the use of it by the feds without any representation in the chamber on behalf of DC. and mendelson, for heavens sakes. you can move a hell of a lot more easily than the city can be absorbed into a state.

Posted by: esmerelda123 | April 15, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

This issue doesn't even make sense -- what nimrod decided to create a bill that would add a statewide Utah seat instead of creating a regular district? Make the change, pass the bill, and let's move on.

Posted by: LittleSal | April 15, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Hatch makes sense. Why resist what seems a reasonable amendment?

Posted by: RealityCheckerInEffect | April 15, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I find it amazing that nobody seems to be asking this question:

"Why does Washington DC not deserve a vote, given that they are taxpaying Americans?"

Posted by: ravensfan20008 | April 15, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

The simple solution is allow every district resident to register and vote in a Congressional District of their choice. Many would choose Northern Virginia or Maryland... although it would be interesting if the residents of the district all selected Alaska and took over the seats...

Posted by: dcraven925 | April 15, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

ravensfan2008 - I find it mind-boggling that you haven't read any of the dozens of articles discussing exactly that question that have appeared in the newspaper and on this website during the past few years, not to mention in hundreds of other places. Plenty of people are constantly asking that question.

First time you ever thought about this subject, eh? Welcome to the conversation.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 15, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

DC is not a state and never was menat to be. Stop making it one. Stop people from living there. It was meant as a place to work. If you want to vote for a corrupt POL move to MD. I'm sure Fenty and the council would love for the Feds to stop collecting taxes so the city raise the DC tax rate up to 40%. Why would a Utah Senator support such a move when the census is nearly done and they will get an extra seat guarenteed.

Posted by: espnfan | April 16, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

bobsewell: You NAILED IT, fantastic comments!

Posted by: netsurf12 | April 16, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

ESPNFan: Sure, it wasn't initially meant to be a place where people lived, at least not permanently (some politicians had temporary housing, as they still do now). But the fact of the matter is that people DO live in DC NOW, so what do you do, evict them all? Good luck. You have to deal with what has happened and move forward.

The District was never intended to be a place where people lived, which is why the Constitution says "states" and the District was deliberately NOT located within a state. However, I sincerely doubt that the Founding Fathers intended to completely disenfranchise thousands of people simply because they eventually chose to live within the District. Thus, the interpretation of state should be one that means an increment of land that houses people (meaning states rather than cities or counties - you have state representatives rather than reps based on county or city). In this line of thought, the District should have floor-voting seats in Congress. While you're at it, they should technically have two senators, too (or else they are represented in one chamber and not the other).

Posted by: JG08 | April 16, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

"DC has screwed up everything its touched. With the exception of Wms and perhaps Washington, the elected mayors have been clowns or worse, the schools have been a wasteland, and contracting practices have been terrible.

Perhaps Md will accept them as a city?"

No, thanks. don't do us any favors. We already have one large, dysfunctional city bleeding us of our resources. It's called Baltimore.

Posted by: ceefer66 | April 16, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Hatch has obviously forgotten the Revolutionary War. No taxation without representation. Why does Hatch hate America? He views D.C. as his plantation.

Posted by: jckdoors | April 16, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I have a feeling that if D.C. were a Republican-leaning territory, Hatch would be all in favor of giving it representation and there would be some Democrat threatening to filibuster the bill.

These people deserve representation. Everyone else gets one Representative and two Senators. But somehow giving D.C. residents a single Rep is going to throw the whole system into chaos? C'mon.

This notion that "We'll only give you a Rep if we can get a Rep to nullify yours" is ludicrous. Utah should get there new district when the Census demonstrates that they've "earned" it just like everyone other state does.

Everyone complains about the system, but nobody is above gaming the system when it suits his/her purposes. That's true for every member of Congress regardless of party.

So screw Senator Hatch on this one, I say.

Posted by: ChipMorton | April 16, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

All the laws that this city's adminstration have broken...are you serious a state, we can't get it right as a city!

Posted by: | April 16, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

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