Bill Would Give D.C. Vote, Utah Extra Seat
By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer Fri May 12,
12:43 AM ET
WASHINGTON - Two centuries after lawmakers arrived in
the federal city and nearly a hundred years after the
last expansion of Congress, a bipartisan group of
House members says it's time to give residents of the
nation's capital a vote there.
The legislation crafted by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., and
the District of Columbia's nonvoting delegate,
Democrat Eleanor Holmes, balances the proposed
addition of what would be a solidly Democratic D.C.
seat with a new seat for Utah, a state that voted 71
percent for President Bush in 2004.
"It is simply inexcusable that residents of the
District of Columbia, the capital of the free world
... do not have a representative with a vote on the
floor of the House of Representatives, the People's
House," Davis said at a news conference Thursday.
Davis said his House Government Reform Committee would
vote on the measure soon, and that Judiciary Committee
Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., would take up
the issue. Davis and Norton have been promoting the
D.C. vote issue for years, but this would be the first
House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said
Thursday he knew the issue was important to both
Washington and Utah. "I'm in a wait-and-see mode.
Let's see what the committees can do and we'll talk
about it," he said.
Ilir Zherka, executive director of the nonprofit
advocacy group D.C. Vote, said the Davis-Norton bill
was "the closest we have ever been to voting
representation in Congress, and D.C. residents should
be shouting from the rooftops and engaging friends
across the country to make this critical bill a law."
The House has had 435 representatives since 1913,
except for a brief period between 1959 and 1963 when
the number was 437 after Hawaii and Alaska became
states. A 1929 law made the 435 figure permanent.
Congress in 1801, shortly after moving to Washington,
took away the voting rights of D.C. residents, who
until then had voted for Virginia or Maryland
lawmakers. The 23rd Amendment, ratified in 1961, gave
D.C. residents the right to vote in presidential
elections, and the city of 537,000 has been allowed to
elect its own leaders since 1973.
Norton, who can cast votes in committees and
participate in House floor debate but can't vote on
the floor, said her ultimate goal is to achieve voting
rights in both the House and the Senate, but
acknowledges she doesn't have enough support for that
"My 16 years in Congress has been defined by the
search for some way to get full representation for the
city where my family has lived since before the Civil
War," she said.
Utah, which just missed getting an extra House seat
after the 2000 census, currently has three House seats
held by two Republicans and one Democrat. To avoid an
immediate shift in this balance, the fourth seat under
the Davis-Norton bill would be at-large, representing
the entire state, until the 2012 election. Davis'
office said this was a common procedure in the 19th
century, when the House expanded as the nation's
Rep. Chris Cannon (news, bio, voting record), R-Utah,
said he would support the bill. "I will do what I can
to make sure this legislation sees quick action so
that Utah can get the at-large seat that we deserve."
"I have been to
Iraq 12 times and have met members of our armed
services from D.C. risking their lives for our
country," said Rep. Christopher Shays (news, bio,
voting record), R-Conn. "They deserve a representative
in Congress that has a vote. Ultimately, the politics
of this issue will sort themselves out."
On the Net:
DC Vote: http://www.dcvote.org/