D.C. Voting Rights May Be Attached to Defense Spending Bill

Posted October 16, 2009 at 5:11pm

House Democratic leaders are considering attaching the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act to the Defense spending bill, in an effort to bypass a months-long stalemate over giving D.C. residents a full House seat.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) hinted that it was a possibility on the floor Thursday afternoon, after Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) questioned “rumors— he heard about the voting rights act being attached.

“I will tell my friend, I don’t know whether that’s going to be,— Hoyer responded. “I’ve heard some discussion about that myself. But whether it is or not, I will tell my friend that I will continue to fight as hard as I can to try to figure out how I can bring that bill to the floor, get it to a vote, and give the people of the District of Columbia, our fellow citizens, the right to vote as the citizens in Baghdad can do, the citizens in Moscow can do, the citizens in every free country in the world except the United States of America, can do. I think that’s a blot on our democracy. I would hope that we would erase that blot as soon as we can in any way that we can.—

The bill’s progress came to a halt more than four months ago, thanks to a poison pill amendment that would strip the District of most of its gun control laws. The Senate passed the bill with the amendment attached; in the House, the bill’s advocates removed the bill from the calendar for fear that pro-gun-rights Members, under pressure from the National Rifle Association, would not vote for an amendment-free bill.

Attaching the voting rights act to the Defense appropriations bill would corner Republicans who oppose the voting rights act but are also loath to hold up appropriations for the nation’s troops. The voting rights act would give D.C. its first-ever House seat, along with an additional Member for Utah, which narrowly missed getting an extra seat after the 2000 census.

On Thursday, McCarthy objected to coupling the two bills “because it would be showing a propensity to use our men and women in uniform to carry controversial legislation.—