D.C. Needs a House Vote
By Mark Plotkin
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.
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