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Posted at 02:52 PM ET, 04/15/2010

Senator threatens to block D.C. voting rights bill

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a leading sponsor of legislation to give the District a vote in the House, dampened expectations for voting rights advocates Thursday when he announced opposition to a bill scheduled to move forward as early as next week.

Hatch, whose support for the effort had been critical to its success in the Senate last year, said he would filibuster a bill and vote against it if the measure passes the House.

Under a political compromise, the bill would add two seats to the House: one to the overwhelmingly Democratic District and the other to the Republican-leaning Utah. Hatch said in a statement that he objects to the House version of the bill that would create a statewide seat for Utah, instead of a fourth district seat.

"Utah deserves an additional seat in the House, but like every other state it should have the freedom to elect its House members from regular districts," he said.

Hatch said the bill would give one House member three times as many constituents as the three other representatives.

"The solution to this ridiculous confusion is simply to let Utah elect its House members its own way."

The bill's co-sponsor in the Senate, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), remains committed to the legislation, his spokesperson Leslie Phillips said in an email Thursday.

Hatch's announcement comes one day after House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the bill would come to the floor for a vote as early as next week.

With Hatch's support last year, the Senate passed a D.C. voting rights bill on a 61 to 37 vote. The measure stalled in the House after lawmakers in the Senate attached language that would repeal most local gun control laws.

It is unclear whether there would be the required 60 votes in the Senate to move forward with the bill if Hatch filibusters.

"We don't know that we have them, but we think they are certainly within reach," said Ilir Zherka, executive director of the advocacy group DC Vote.

By Ann Marimow  |  02:52 PM ET, 04/15/2010

Categories:  Ann E. Marimow, Ann E. Marimow

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