GOP’s gunplay holds up D.C. vote in House

Using a procedural motion to ward off a Democratic victory, Republicans yesterday effectively postponed a vote on a bill that would give District of Columbia residents a voting member of the House.

After an hour and 20 minutes of floor debate, Republican opponents introduced a motion to recommit that would lift gun restrictions in Washington.

Democrats scrambled to determine their next move, signaling they were unsure whether they could muster enough votes to block the motion to recommit. If the motion passed, the D.C. voting rights bill could go back to committee, where it would most likely die.

The bill was yanked from the floor until further announcements by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif). House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) then opened debate on the Iraq war supplemental spending bill.

The D.C. voting rights bill would increase the number of representatives in the House from 435 to 437 by adding a seat for D.C. and an at-large seat for Utah. It seemed to be sailing to victory after easy passage in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. When the House Judiciary Committee took the bill up last week, it met with harsh Republican criticism but still managed to pass, 21-13.

Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.), a sponsor of the D.C. vote legislation, criticized GOP members on their motion to recommit.

“This is not a motion to recommit,” Norton said on the House floor. “It’s a motion to shoot the bill down.”
Norton continued: “Vote against a motion to recommit. Otherwise, you’re voting against voting rights in the District of Columbia.”

A spokesman for Pelosi, Nadeam Elshami, said that the vote would be held soon. “I think they’ll go back to Rules and fix this glitch,” he said.

A spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), a sponsor of the legislation, said the congressman hopes that the Democratic leadership can whip its party into action next time the bill comes to the floor.

“Hopefully, next time Democratic leadership will be a little surer of their footing,” said David Marin, Republican staff director for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) condemned Democrats for ending debate and postponing the vote.

“Fearing that many in their party would support Second Amendment rights for District residents, the Democratic Leadership shamefully exploited a rule to kill debate and postpone the vote indefinitely,” Boehner said in a press release. “House Republicans remain fully prepared to debate and vote on any proposal affecting the citizens of the District of Columbia.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) criticized the Republicans’ move, saying that Martin Luther King Jr. would be “dismayed by us now, putting up a gun-control motion to recommit.”

“The motion to recommit … would deny everyone in this House [the ability] to vote on whether citizens would have the right to vote,” Conyers said.

Democrats’ spirits remained high yesterday, despite the GOP roadblock. A pre-scheduled press conference with Norton, Davis, and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty still took place yesterday afternoon.

Davis spokesman Marin said the congressman likewise remained “upbeat.”

“This legislation is going to pass the House,” he said. “We’ve been patient for three and a half, four years now. We can be patient for a little longer.”