Leaders revive fight for D.C. voting rights
Congressional leaders intend to revive a D.C. voting rights bill on the House floor as early as next week, despite opposition from city leaders to an amendment that would strip most of the District’s gun-control laws.
The final details of the bill were being worked out Wednesday, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he expects the legislation to clear the House and to include some version of the pro-gun language that has bogged down the measure since last year.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the city’s nonvoting House member, said she is still negotiating to try to weaken the gun amendment, but that she is unwilling to sacrifice the opportunity to win a long-sought voting seat for the District by insisting on a stand-alone bill.
“This is the best chance we’ve had to get a House vote for D.C. in my lifetime,” Norton said. “Nobody would leave it on the table because it’s not at all clear when there will be another chance.”
A year ago, the Senate passed a voting rights bill for the first time since 1978, but lawmakers attached language that would wipe out most local gun laws and restrict the D.C. Council’s power to enact new ones. House leaders shelved the legislation when it became clear that it would be difficult to block the gun amendment.
Under the bill, the House would add two members: one to the overwhelmingly Democratic District and the other temporarily to Republican-leaning Utah. That seat would then go to whichever state is next in line for a representative based on the 2010 Census.
Last March, many city leaders, including Norton, fiercely opposed efforts to loosen the District’s gun laws. The D.C. Council passed a resolution declaring their opposition to the gun amendment.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), however, has said that he believes the majority of D.C. residents would reluctantly accept the gun amendment if it meant winning the vote and then later fighting to restore firearms restrictions.
Ilir Zherka, executive director of the advocacy group DC Vote, said he supports Norton’s strategy.
“We think it’s high time for the bill to be taken up by the full House and to be passed,” he said.
-- Ann E. Marimow
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