Bishop, Matheson Pointing Fingers Over 4th-seat Impasse
||Salt Lake Tribune (UT)
||Saturday, June 4, 2005
WASHINGTON - Utah Congressmen Rob Bishop, a Republican, and Jim Matheson, a Democrat, are squabbling over who is to blame for the stalemate on a plan that would give Utah a fourth congressional seat.
The state Democratic Party weighed in Friday, charging Bishop was only trying to divert attention from the Republican's inability to move legislation that would add two seats in the 435-member House, granting one each to Utah and the District of Columbia.
Utah, a Republican stronghold, would get the seat as a counterbalance the proposed new seat for D.C., which is heavily Democratic.
The legislation, called the District of Columbia Fairness in Representation Act, was introduced by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., in early May and awaits hearings by the House Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Government Reform, which Davis chairs.
Matheson is not a co-sponsor of the bill, and Bishop alleges that is hampering the chances of passage.
"It would be nice to first of all get a united Utah delegation on the bill," said Bishop spokesman Scott Parker.
Matheson counters that he has always supported a fourth seat for Utah and charges that Bishop is just trying to blame his problems on the opposing party.
"This is very unfortunate," Matheson said. "I don't think that co-sponsorship means one thing or another. The bottom line is that Bishop can't get his own party leadership on board so he blames the Democrats."
Newly elected Utah Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland Jr. jumped into the fracas Friday, echoing Matheson's comments that the Republican from Utah's 1st District is trying to condemn someone else for his own failures.
"Congressman Bishop has always been great at deflecting his own inabilities to get things done," Holland said while in Washington. "He points the finger well when he should be looking in the mirror."
Parker called Holland's comments old campaign rhetoric. "The stuff that Holland's saying, he just doesn't quite understand Rob's effectiveness in D.C... Rob's voters know he's effective."
But it appears Republican and Democratic leadership have reservations about Davis' bill.
House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, was quoted in a column in Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill, saying he opposed the legislation to give D.C. a congressional seat.
"No way - that would be turning over control of the federal government to D.C.," the newspaper quoted Delay.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also resists the legislation, according to a New York Times story last month. She criticized the bill, saying Utah would be forced to redraw voting boundaries, possibly forcing Matheson into an even more Republican-heavy district. The Utah Legislature pushed Matheson into a Republican district during the 2001 redistricting.
A spokesman for Davis says that GOP leadership "hasn't said 'no' to the bill."
"What they're doing is letting [Davis] build support for the bill," said spokesman Robert White, who added that the legislation will get a hearing in the next few months.