House panel passes bill that would give D.C. a vote

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday passed a bill that would give the District of Columbia a voting member in the House, clearing the way for a floor vote on the issue in the coming weeks.

Despite partisan clashes on the merits of the legislation, it passed 21 to 13. Along with all the Democrats present, Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Chris Cannon (R-Utah) voted for the legislation. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a cosponsor of the legislation, was not present during the vote.

Republicans offered five amendments to the bill, which would grant D.C. a vote in the House and give Utah an at-large seat. However, all of the amendments failed. Democrats did not offer any amendments.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) introduced two of the five amendments to the bill. However, he had plans to offer 43 amendments, each of which would have given residents of U.S. military bases or forts a voting member of the House.

The article of the Constitution that the bill’s sponsors are using to try to grant D.C. a voting member also contains language about military bases. Gohmert argued that the framers were very clear in their decision to deny the District a voting member. He drove that point home by illustrating that military bases could receive the same representation using the sponsors’ rationale.

Gohmert introduced one of the 43 amendments for Camp Pendleton, Calif. to be considered as a “congressional district for the purposes of representation in the House of Representatives.”

He withdrew the amendment and decided not to offer the 42 others after persuasion by Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) during a recess for votes.

“Gohmert planned to offer many more amendments,” Conyers told the committee. “He’s been cooperative and not been dilatory. He is a good friend and cooperative as long as he is treated fairly.”

Gohmert responded by saying that his mother told him the merits of repeating his point. “In order to make an extremely important constitutional point, I thought it could be done with amendments.”

However, he joked that she also told him: “Sometimes you persist until it ceases to be a virtue.”

Ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) also introduced an amendment that would expedite judicial review of the legislation. It failed along party lines.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) questioned Smith’s amendment, saying Congress has not expedited appeals for “dozens” of constitutionally questionable pieces of legislation. She cited the Patriot Act.

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) and former committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) unsuccessfully offered amendments regarding the bill’s provisions for Utah’s at-large seat.

“Each of these amendments in their own way have one purpose: to kill the bill,” Holmes Norton, who sponsored the legislation, told The Hill.

The bill is expected to reach the House floor before the congressional recess in early April.