Washington D.C. voting rights advocates hope the debate over healthcare legislation will be settled by October so lawmakers can take up a stalled bill that would grant the District a representational vote in Congress.
The measure, sponsored by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), was thwarted earlier this year in the House when Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) attached an amendment to the bill that would loosen the city’s gun laws and lessen penalties for violating local gun laws.
The DC Vote advocacy group has spent the summer pumping Childers’ district with advertisements that denounce him for the amendment. It plans to continue the ads through September, adding a Nevada focus at some point to target Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who sponsored a similar amendment to the Senate version of the bill.
With healthcare reform currently taking center stage in Congress, DC Vote says that it is unreasonable that D.C. residents cannot voice their opinions by having a member with a representational vote.
“It is unconscionable that as the Congress debates something as critical as health care reform, that more than half a million Americans are left without a voting member to represent their interest,” said Jaline Quinto, a spokeswoman for DC Vote.
“It underscores the urgency and importance of DC residents getting voting representation so their voice is heard on important issues such as healthcare."
And, in four weeks, on Oct. 5, the group is planning a large rally at an undetermined place on the House side of Capitol Hill to re-energize their supporters and members to put their attention back on the bill.
“Congress is back and we don’t think we’ll get lost too much in the fray,” said Jaline Quinto, a spokeswoman for DC Vote, of the timing of the event.
“We won’t have gotten our supporters together and rallied around the cause for a long time. And we’ve been in touch with Delegate Norton’s office in terms of strategy for the bill, so we’re hoping that we can continue to put pressure on Congress to bring the bill up in this Congress.”
A stalwart proponent of the bill, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has worked extensively behind the scenes to try and reach a solution towards moving the bill forward.
But after the National Rifle Association vowed to “score” a vote on the rules, which could potentially persuade more conservative Democrats to vote for the gun amendment to save their voting record from criticism in next year’s election, both Hoyer and Norton’s efforts were largely stifled.
DC Vote remains ever-hopeful of the bills progress however, saying that the time has not yet come to start drafting new or compromise legislation.
“I don’t think we’re at a place right now where it has to go back to the drawing board,” Quinto said. “We’re definitely hopeful that we can still get it done in this Congress.”
“We’ll continue to push for passage of a clean bill within this Congress. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the NRA. We’re doing our part to continue to put pressure on people who are caving to the pressure of the NRA. So we’ll see what happens, but we’re definitely still hopeful.”