Hoyer: No vote on D.C. voting rights bill

Washington, D.C., may have lost its best chance to gain a vote in Congress after House Democrats said on Tuesday that they would not vote on the legislation this week.

The scheduled vote was seen as the bill’s most promising opportunity for passage — possibly for years to come — after decades of attempts.

Supporters hoped the firm Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress and the election of President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama to join NBA Africa as strategic partner Obama setting up big bash to celebrate his 60th A path to climate, economic and environmental justice is finally on the horizon MORE, who recently reaffirmed his support for the measure, would help the legislation through.


But on Tuesday, a visibly disappointed House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced that after consulting with longtime D.C. voting-rights advocate Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the vote would not happen.

Hoyer said the reason was the potential ramifications of language attached to the bill that would restrict D.C.’s right to enact gun-control laws.

“The price was too high,” he said at his weekly press conference.

Norton said she asked Hoyer to remove the bill from the floor schedule because of “three outrageous provisions” in the latest language that would further relax D.C. gun laws by, among other things, making it easier to obtain concealed-carry permits. She said including the gun language would cost the bill key Democratic votes.

“I cannot agree to these egregious changes, not only because they make the already bad gun attachment to the D.C. voting-rights bill even worse than I thought was possible, but also because the new sections will surely bring down the support we have had of anti-gun Democratic senators,” Norton said in a statement.

Norton said she was especially disheartened to stall the bill again this year because the chances of passing a D.C. voting-rights act in the next Congress are less likely with the Democrats slated to lose some of their majorities in both chambers.


The D.C. voting-rights bill passed the Senate last year, but only after gun-rights advocates had attached a provision essentially forbidding the District from restricting firearms possession by its residents. Nearly two years ago the Supreme Court struck down D.C.’s strict gun laws, including a ban on handguns, ruling that they were unconstitutional.

In recent years, the voting-rights measure had included a proposal aimed at garnering Republican support in lieu of relaxing gun laws by adding another seat in the House for Utah, which would offset the expected Democratic gain from the District with a safe seat for the GOP in the West.

But a stumbling block emerged late last week when Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchDrug prices are declining amid inflation fears The national action imperative to achieve 30 by 30 Financial market transactions should not be taxed or restricted MORE (R-Utah) said he would filibuster a final bill if the Utah seat were an at-large statewide seat rather than a district within the state, which he favors.

Hatch heralded Tuesday’s announcement.

“This legislation made a mockery of our system of federalism by dictating to the state of Utah how it chooses its elected representatives,” Hatch said in a statement.

“This type of arrogant, Washington-knows-best attitude is exactly why people are so angry, and why I’m glad this legislation will not move forward through the House.”

Though Hoyer said he hoped to bring the bill back up “in the near future,” he was pessimistic a vote would happen this year.

“At this point in time, I do not see the ability to move it in this session of Congress,” Hoyer said.

The White House reiterated its support for the legislation.

“I think the president has been very clear on his feelings about voting rights for D.C. and that folks who live in D.C. should have voting rights. It’s something that he consulted with members of Congress on; it’s something that his staff has worked hard on,” deputy press secretary Bill Burton said.

Hoyer blamed opponents of the measure — which some Republicans view as unconstitutional — for torpedoing the bill, adding that it was “a blight” on American democracy that Congress has not given a voting member to the District.

“I am profoundly disappointed that we will not be considering legislation to give the 600,000 Americans who live in the District of Columbia what their 300 million fellow citizens have: a voting representative in the House of Representatives,” Hoyer said.

Despite the setback, the voting-rights advocacy group DC Vote pledged that it will continue the battle for full voting rights for the citizens of Washington.

“We are geared up to fight against the NRA and other pro-gun advocates who continue to try to strip the District of its gun laws,” the group said in a statement. “D.C. residents will not back down. We will persist in our mission to realize voting rights, local autonomy and statehood for D.C.”

Gun-control advocates also lauded Tuesday’s decision, saying relaxing gun laws in exchange for a representational vote in Congress was “bad politics.”

“Today, the people of D.C. reaffirmed that they will stand up to the gun-lobby bullies and fight for strong gun laws,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Congress should stop trying to weaken the District’s gun laws and work to enact strong national legislation to make it harder for dangerous people to get guns, along with a fair, clean bill that gives D.C.’s citizens full representation in Congress.”