Copping out on the district

January 28, 2007

One would think that a measure in the House of Representatives to give full voting rights to the District of Columbia would be easy now that Democrats are in charge of Congress. After all, they've been pushing it as a basic civil rights issue for years - and rightly so.

But all that has happened so far is a weak-kneed change giving the district's delegate, along with those from U.S. territories, including Guam and American Samoa, limited votes on the House floor. For residents of the district, who pay federal income taxes, that's a copout.

A sensible bipartisan compromise bill, co-sponsored by the district's delegate, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, was introduced in the last Congress. It would give the district's representative full voting rights in the House at the same time that Utah, which barely missed gaining another seat in the last census, would expand its House delegation from three to four. The expected Democrat from the district and Republican from Utah made the deal politically feasible.

But in the waning days of the lame-duck session, House Republican leaders failed to act. Now, Democrats are dragging their feet. Last week, they would only go so far as to allow the district's delegate to vote on certain measures, including amendments, but not on final passage of bills.

That's simply unacceptable. Ms. Norton is calling for the D.C.-Utah compromise bill to be brought to the House floor by March, before Congress becomes bogged down in other business. House Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, should accommodate her and finally give residents of the district the full House vote that they deserve.

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