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Plan to Give D.C. a Vote In Congress Advances

The second expected change would make the expansion of the House permanent rather than temporary. Collapsing the House back to 435 members would have forced a state with a declining population to sacrifice a representative to the District.

Except for two years in the early 1990s, the District has never had a vote in the House.

From 1993 to 1995, Democratic House leaders permitted Norton and delegates from U.S. territories to vote in most cases, but only if their ballots did not affect the outcome. Norton lost even that limited right in 1995, when the Republicans took control.

In recent years, Norton has pushed for a full complement of representatives on Capitol Hill, including two senators. Some voting-rights advocates said they are disappointed that she appears to be backing away from that now.

"I just think it's passing strange that D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton would undermine her own bill at this late date," said Timothy Cooper, executive director of Worldrights, a human rights advocacy organization that has taken up the District's cause.

Ray Browne, the District's shadow representative, said he believes Norton was swayed after learning that Davis had lined up enough Republican votes to move his bill through the Government Reform Committee, which he chairs, and the House Judiciary Committee. Faced with the possibility that Republicans would push forward without her, Browne said, Norton came aboard.

"Eleanor is doing it because she gets ownership," Browne said. "Eleanor was against this, against this, against this. . . . [But] let her go to the head of the parade. It doesn't matter who gets the credit. It matters that the city gets the vote."

Staff writer Jonathan Weisman contributed to this report.

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