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Posted at 4:39 PM ET, 07/ 3/2009

D.C. Needs a House Vote

By Stephen Stromberg

By Mark Plotkin
Washington

Yesterday was our nation's birthday, but D.C. residents weren't invited to the party. Oh, sure, we can sit in front of the Capitol and along the Mall to enjoy the music and the fireworks. But D.C. residents are not truly citizens of this country: They don't have a voting representative in Congress.

This fight has been going on for a very long time. And now it seems as if it will never end. The D.C. voting rights bill is stalled. Our nonvoting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, pulled it recently from the House floor. Washingtonians have been told to wait until the right time arrives.

Yes, I know there are those terrible pro-gun amendments in the bill. But those amendments unfortunately can be placed on any bill having to do with the District. The National Rifle Association has scared a sizable number of House Democrats so much that the District cannot get a "clean bill," without the pro-gun amendments.

For the District to get a modicum of democracy -- a full vote on the House floor -- we have to dramatically change how we do things. The first person who needs to change or get out of the way is Eleanor Holmes Norton. She has to stop calling the vote "her vote." The vote is not hers. Every citizen of the District deserves that vote. It belongs to all of us. Also, Norton should stop stalling. Her press releases give the false impression that a new strategy has been adopted and that victory is near.

It's not -- at least not right now.

Since the bill passed in the Senate this year, Norton has had more than ample time to move the bill in the House. Instead, I have been told by many involved in the process, she has been consistently inconsistent. One day ready to go, the next day timorous. She is acting not like a "warrior on the Hill" but rather a conventional politician who can't and won't act. For Norton, the status quo is far more acceptable than pushing ahead into possible opposition. She wants unanimity. In the real world, that cannot be achieved. In fact, Norton has said that in the end, she "might have to throw in the towel." Translated, that means accepting the House bill with the pro-gun amendments added in the Senate. But if she is going to do that anyway, why not do it as soon as possible?

Now more than ever, this bill should become law. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) are in favor of the bill and ready to move it. What a perfect vehicle to show the nation and the world that the District is not just a collection of buildings and monuments but a place where real people live. It is a city that has its own history and identity.

Another person missing in action in this debate is President Obama. He can go to Ben's Chili Bowl, but he refuses to say one public word about our lack of voting rights. He won't even put a "Taxation Without Representation" license plate on the presidential limousine. Bill Clinton did. In 2007 Obama voted for the bill in committee when he was a senator. But as president, he hasn't provided a scintilla of moral support. In fact, before he was inaugurated, he told The Post that D.C. voting rights is a "partisan issue." I don't recall him saying that about any other issue. It should not be viewed that way. It is an issue of fairness and justice.

Sometimes you have to compromise for the greater good. The citizens of the District of Columbia should not and cannot wait any longer. Move the bill and move it now.

The writer is the political analyst for WTOP Radio.

By Stephen Stromberg  | July 3, 2009; 4:39 PM ET
Categories:  DC Vote  
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Comments

I would like to ask Mark Plotkin exactly how adding a voting Representative to the current 435 in the House would benefit DC?

One could easily suggest that the House doesn't need a voting member from a citizenry that elects a mayor caught on video tape smoking crack.

The city is dysfunctional almost beyond belief and they want to influence national policy?

Posted by: spamsux1 | July 4, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Here is something to consider, as of 2 July the DC Homicide Rate for this year is down 20.2% and the DC gun laws were relaxed at the beginning of the year. Also, the 2 Jan 09 Washington Post had an article "Rise in Young Killers Worries D.C." that contained all the gun violence stats for the DC area. A cursory analysis of the Area Homicides by Jurisdiction for the Metro Area using the stats in that article demonstrated that there is a dramatically inverse relationship between homicide rates and restrictions on gun ownership. Using the most recent population figures from the US Census Bureau website, DC has 581,530 people and had 367 homicides over the past two years (2007-2008) for a rate of 33.61/year per 100,000 population. The seven Maryland counties have a population of 2,883,272 with 391 homicides for the same period for a rate of 6.78/yr. The four Virginia counties plus the City of Alexandria have 1,973,513 people with 86 homicides for a 2.17/yr rate. This reveals that a person would be fortunate to live in Virginia where gun ownership is almost unrestricted because a DC resident, where guns were all but forbidden, was 15.49 times more likely to be a homicide victim than a Virginian. Even a Marylander, with fairly strict gun laws, were 3.12 times more likely to be a homicide victim. Much better than DC but 3+ times worse than a “gun tottin” Virginian. The obvious message in these statistics and the reduction in DC homicides since the relaxation of gun restriction should - guns make us more and not less safe!

Posted by: A-COL | July 5, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

The District is a mostly minority, mostly Democrat enclave, ruled by Southern Congressmen who want to keep those people in their place. Any bill allowing the vote will have poison pill amendments, i.e. gunlaws, additional Representatives in a republican state and other assorted right wing ploys. I lived there for more than ten years but the 'plantation' aspects of its governance turned me off. It is even more insulting to read comments that link the right to have a vote with the criminal acts of previous mayors. If that is the criteria, we could disenfranchise Louisiana, Nevada, New York and others. DC residents are not part of the nation until they are allowed to vote.

Posted by: coach777b | July 10, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Norton should tweet "Where is my vote?" and shout "God is great!" from the roof of the Capitol?

Seriously, if DC wants representation in congress, the best way to do it is to repeal the 23rd amendment and retrocede the District to Maryland. Ample Federal help would be supplied, and the repeal would be needed because a small Federal zone would be kept and we don't want the White House residents and the homeless choosing three electors.

Posted by: ggreenbaum | July 10, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

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