President Obama is urging Congress to approve a D.C. voting rights bill, just as one is scheduled to come before the U.S. House of Representatives next week.
Although Obama has long indicated he supported giving District residents a vote on Congress, some advocates have accused him of being too silent on the subject. Earlier this year, some local advocates launched a campaign urging Obama to mention D.C. voting rights in his State of the Union address. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) also wrote Obama asking that he mention the cause in his speech, but he did not bring it up during his 70-minute address.
But in a statement the White House issued today to commemorate Emancipation Day, which honors the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves in the District, Obama calls on Congress to pass a D.C. voting rights bill.
"Americans from all walks of life are gathering in Washington today to remind members of Congress that although D.C. residents pay federal taxes and serve honorably in our armed forces, they do not have a vote Congress or full autonomy over local issues," Obama said. "And so I urge Congress to finally pass legislation that provides D.C. residents with voting representation and to take steps to improve the Home Rule charter."
Obama's statement makes no reference to his position on the so-called gun amendment that has been attached to the legislation, which also temporarily gives Utah another congressional seat. That gun amendment would undue many of the city's gun control laws. But Norton and other Democratic congressional leaders believe the voting rights bill cannot pass without the amendment.
"It's very significant," Norton said. "I told the White House this was the opportune time to do it."