Proponents of D.C. voting rights visit House Speaker’s home

New Republican House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) got another welcome to Washington, D.C., this morning, though not one with the usual amenities. Protesters gathered at his apartment early Thursday to object to a GOP push to ban the city's needle exchange program, curtail abortion funding and weaken the city’s gun laws.

The protest, organized by the voting rights group DC Vote, reflects a new, more aggressive approach to objecting to congressional influence over the city. Last week, nearly a dozen demonstrators were thrown out of a House hearing on an abortion measure after staging a silent protest.

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DC Vote has been at the forefront of a push to grant the city’s delegate a representational vote in the House. The measure came close to passing last Congress, but was thwarted by an amendment that would have loosened Washington's gun laws.  

“It is a shift in strategy,” said Leah Ramsay, a spokeswoman for the group. “We’ve played the inside game on the Hill for years. We came very close to having our delegate in Congress become a full voting member."

“It’s time to get more aggressive. There’s no other way to look at it, as we see it,” she said.

Capitol Police prevented the protesters from hand-delivering a letter to Boehner on Thursday and police formed a barricade for the new Republican Speaker to walk behind as demonstrators asked him, “Why are you treading on D.C.?” according to Ramsay.
 
She said Boehner gave no response and a spokesman for the Speaker declined to comment.

The group walked from the Capitol South Metro station to Boehner’s apartment in Southeast around 7:30 a.m. and protested with chants and signs until he left around 8:45 a.m.

“We went to his home because he has come to our home in D.C. and tried to tell us how to live, even though no one here voted for him,” Ramsay said. “He’s tried to change our local laws and override our elected officials, and so we went to his home to tell him to leave D.C. alone and stop interfering in local affairs and local laws here.

“After so many conservative new lawmakers in the House came to D.C. with the cry of ‘Don’t tread on me’ we want to say back to them and to their leader Speaker Boehner, ‘Don’t tread on D.C.,' ” she said.

The letter the group attempted to deliver to Boehner’s front door is one they’ve sent to all lawmakers on Capitol Hill. It’s signed by groups such as the National Education Association and the League of Women’s Voters, and asks members to put a stop to several measures, including the repeal of the city's gay marriage law, the needle exchange program, and restrictive gun laws.


Washington's funding is subject to congressional approval and oversight. When Republicans took control of the House this year, they moved to ban the city’s needle exchange program and ban the use of any funds for abortions.

Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) introduced a measure last week that would revise gun laws by loosening firearm registration requirements and repealing ammunition restrictions, among other provisions. The bill is similar to a failed measure that was offered by Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) in the last Congress.

Ramsay said the group may not opt for the same type of protest as the one held on Thursday, but that they were planning other demonstrations for the future.

“It’s definitely not the end of our aggressive action,” she said. “There’s definitely more to come.”

Ramsay said that DC Vote is interested in speaking with members of the local Tea Party to see where their priorities for the city might align.

“We are interested in speaking with the members of the D.C. Tea Party and potentially working with them, but we haven’t had that meeting yet,” she said.