Norton-Davis Bill Headed For Markups, Floor Vote

Posted March 7, 2007 at 6:46pm

A measure that would grant the District of Columbia full voting representation in the House is expected to be marked up by two committees next week and will get a floor vote by the end of the month, Democratic lawmakers announced Wednesday.

Both the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees will take up the D.C. Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act in the week. Judiciary has scheduled a hearing on the matter for 10 a.m. on March 14, while scheduling details for an Oversight hearing were still being worked out Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) praised Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for making the bill a priority.

“I know I speak for my constituents when I express deep gratitude to the Speaker for the time and effort she personally has spent on the bill,” Norton said. “We in the District embrace this milestone in the journey of our citizens for two centuries to obtain the most basic of American citizenship rights.”

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) confirmed that a vote will be held on the House floor by the end of the month.

“The people of the District have waited too long to have a voice in the House,” Hoyer said. “Democrats promised to move this legislation in the first months of the new Congress and that is what we are doing.”

The compromise bill would grant Democratic-leaning D.C. a full vote in the House, as well as give Republican-leaning Utah a fourth, at-large district.

The Oversight Committee approved a similar measure in the previous Congress. Norton sits on the panel, and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who co-sponsored the bill with her, is ranking member.

Last year’s bill died in the Judiciary Committee, although the subcommittee on the Constitution did hold a hearing on the matter at the end of the session.

If the measure passes, special elections will need to be held to fill the new seats. But some constitutional experts and a recent report by the Congressional Research Service have warned that Congress does not have the authority to give the District a House vote.

Supporters of the bill dispute that claim, however, arguing that Congress has treated the District as a state for purposes of the Commerce Clause and Diversity Jurisdiction section of the Constitution.

Ilir Zherka, executive director of advocacy group DC Vote, said he was “thrilled” by Wednesday’s announcement.

“Our coalition has worked on this very hard for a number of years,” Zherka said. “To see it fall into place is very exciting.”

DC Vote will announce a number of lobbying initiatives in coming days to ensure strong bipartisan support for the measure, Zherka said.

“We view the committee markups as the beginning of the end of taxation without representation,” Zherka said.