Cannon: Talk with VP Gives Him Hope for Fourth Seat bill
||Salt Lake Tribune (UT)
||Tuesday, May 8, 2007
WASHINGTON - Rep. Chris Cannon says there may yet be a glimmer of light for a plan to give Utah a fourth House seat, based on a discussion the congressman had with Vice President Cheney during his recent flight to Utah.
Cannon raised the issue of the legislation - which would give Washington, D.C., its first-ever House member and balance it with an additional seat for Utah - when he was aboard Air Force 2 with Cheney as the vice president traveled to deliver a commencement speech at Brigham Young University.
Cheney characterized the concerns as something at the staff level, but said there are some key senior-level staff who support the legislation, Cannon said.
"I can't imagine that the president would veto a bill like this," Cannon said in an interview. "I think when push comes to shove, the president will sign it."
Support from the Bush administration would be a significant reversal. The White House said in a statement in March that there were constitutional concerns with the bill and that staff would recommend the president veto the legislation.
White House support, however, may not be forthcoming.
"The vice president supports the president's position on the D.C. House Voting Rights Act," Megan McGinn, a spokeswoman for the vice president, said Monday.
Cannon said he previously thought the D.C.-Utah bill only had a 50 percent chance of becoming law. But after his discussion with Cheney and the introduction of the D.C.-Utah bill in the Senate last week, he now thinks there's a 70 percent chance it will become a reality.
Ilir Zherka, executive director of the group DC Vote, said the discussions are a good sign.
"We're encouraged whenever we hear there are differing opinions in the White House about the D.C. Voting Rights Act. We have believed all along that veto by the president was not a foregone conclusion," he said.
The administration's statement only said that staff would recommend a veto, not that the president would veto the bill.
"I think we've got some wiggle room there," he said. But for now, the group is focusing on getting the legislation through the Senate.
The House passed a bill in March creating an at-large House member for Utah, representing the entire state. The Utah member would provide a conservative balance to a likely Democratic member who would represent Washington, D.C.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., introduced legislation last week that tweaked the House bill, giving the Utah Legislature the authority to draw the boundaries for the fourth district, and delaying its implementation until after the 2008 election.
Cannon thinks the legislation is promising, but would want the new House members seated before 2008, so they have more seniority than the freshmen lawmakers from that election.