Hoyer Pessimistic About Passage of D.C. Voting Act

Posted June 9, 2009 at 11:08am

Updated: 4:23 p.m.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday sounded his darkest notes yet about the prospects of his pet issue: giving the District of Columbia a voting Representative in the House.

“As a result of there not being a consensus, I don’t think we’re going to be able to move the bill at this point in time,— Hoyer told reporters at his weekly briefing.

The measure has been snagged since it cleared the Senate in February with an amendment that would gut the city’s gun restrictions. That provision is anathema to some local leaders, including Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), but Democratic leaders can’t pass a rule on the measure that precludes consideration of the gun issue.

The decision to hold off seems to have come from voting rights advocates, who realized that the bill couldn’t pass without a version of the gun amendment.

In a memo sent Tuesday to Members and D.C. officials, Norton said Hoyer “has been trying unsuccessfully to get the votes for a clean bill.—

“Please understand that we are holding the bill for now, not giving up on voting rights,— she wrote. “I would be happy to discuss details with you personally.—

Hoyer’s office declined to comment on the memo, but spokeswoman Stephanie Lundberg said the Majority Leader won’t give up on getting the bill passed and “doesn’t believe there is a deadline that precludes action.—

Hoyer had originally set Memorial Day as his target for passing the D.C. voting bill. Before the break for that holiday, he acknowledged the difficulty in reaching a breakthrough but pledged action this year. “It is going to happen,— he said.

He declined to repeat the prediction on Tuesday.

“I continue to be very disappointed that the House and Senate cannot pass a bill which enfranchises 600,000 Americans with a voting Representative in the Congress of the United States,— he said.

“I think it is a blot on our democracy. I will not give up on this bill. I will continue to work it. I have thought more about this bill over the last five months — and we’ve done some very big stuff — than I think any other bill. …

“But I’m going to stay focused on it, stay working on it, but at this point in time, as I said, we don’t have consensus,— Hoyer added.