Davis Admits D.C. Unlikely to Win House Vote in 108th

Posted May 19, 2004 at 5:57pm

Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) acknowledged Wednesday that it is unlikely a proposal to create a House seat for the District of Columbia will pass out of the chamber this session, but said his panel will press ahead with a hearing on the issue next month.

The Virginia lawmaker also said he has delayed formally introducing any legislation — Davis initially indicated he would introduce a bill in fall 2003 — at the request of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who also serves on the Government Reform panel.

Davis declined to elaborate on the agreement, and a spokeswoman for Norton said only that the lawmakers “have been very careful to take one step at a time.”

“There’s got to be bipartisan agreement before they get to a bill that all can agree on,” said Doxie McCoy, Norton’s spokeswoman. Norton has sponsored her own bill.

The legislation Davis is expected to introduce would temporarily expand the House to 437 seats, creating a fourth Congressional district in Utah, which is a Republican stronghold, and one seat for the District of Columbia, a Democratic bastion. (The District is currently represented by a nonvoting Delegate.)

The House would contract to 435 seats following the 2010 Census and reapportionment, but would preserve the D.C. district.

“We’re introducing this bill as a mark,” explained Davis, who has acknowledged Democratic concerns over the legislation.

While a number of D.C. voting rights activists have praised the concept of linking the seats — intended to gain bipartisan support — House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), have questioned the proposal, citing the need to redistrict Utah.

Specifically, Democrats fear that Utah’s Republican-dominated Legislature could create a new map turning Rep. Jim Matheson’s (D) already competitive 2nd district into a Republican stronghold.

“My view is we ought to put the bill out there just for D.C. representation,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the Government Reform panel’s ranking member.

While Davis remains open to altering the bill — “At the end of the day, we can sit down and sort it out,” he said — he noted that constitutional issues must also be reviewed.

During the June hearing, the Government Reform panel will likely review several proposals in addition to the Davis bill, sponsored by Reps. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Norton, which range from Maryland reclaiming the District to full Congressional representation.

“We’re just going to have a hearing on the general concept,” Davis said.