D.C. Voting Rights Act Delayed by Handgun Laws
||The Hoya (DC)
||Friday, January 29, 2010
||Mary Kathryn James
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) revealed Tuesday that the D.C. House Voting Rights Act has not been brought to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote because of a contested amendment on gun-control legislation.
For nearly a year, advocates of D.C. voting rights have been working to pass the bill that would grant Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) a vote in the House. The bill, which was proposed by Norton, was passed by the Senate on Feb. 26, 2009. The Senate version of the bill, however, includes an amendment that would strip the District of the majority of its gun-control legislation. D.C. officials, including Mayor Adrian Fenty, disapprove of the bill in its current state. Hoyer also voiced concerns. “[It is] an inappropriate addition to this legislation,” Hoyer said to the DCist, “We can act individually on [gun-control legislation] if Congress wants to do that.”
The gun amendment, initiated by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), would effectively remove the city’s gun-registration requirements, limit its authority to restrict firearms and repeal the District’s ban on semi-automatic weapons, according to the Web site of DC Vote, an advocacy group for D.C voting rights.
In her Jan. 20 letter to Obama, Norton urged him to include a statement of support for the bill in his State of the Union Address. Obama voted in favor of the bill in 2007 during his term in the U.S. Senate.
DC Vote issued a press release Thursday in which Ilir Zherka, DC Vote executive director, reprimanded Obama for neglecting to mention the bill.
The Voting Rights Act is a bipartisan piece of legislation that would permanently expand the House by two seats: one for the District, the other allotted to a newly created district in Utah.
The Bill would grant political representation to the nearly 600,000 residents of the District.
“The residents of the nation’s capital, who have struggled for centuries for their voting rights, are especially keen this year to achieve their rights,” Norton said in a Jan. 20, letter to President Obama. “The stars are surely aligned. For the first time in more than a decade, we have a Democratic House, Senate and president, and the bill has more than 60 votes in the Senate, which has already passed the bill.”
“There was a clear opportunity for him to mention D.C. voting rights toward the end of his remarks when he mentioned other important civil rights issues,” Zherka said in the press release.