Pelosi May Move D.C. Closer to Voting Rights

By Allan Lengel and Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 10, 2006

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that she hopes to swiftly bring the District a step closer to full voting rights in the House, a measure D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton called a move in the right direction.

Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is poised to become the speaker of the House in January, said she wants to change House rules Jan. 3, the first day of the new session, so that Norton can vote on proposed changes to legislation on the House floor. Under the planned move, she would not be able to vote on final passage.

"We are still putting the rules package together, but I think there's a good chance that will be in there," Pelosi said of the changes Democrats plan to introduce when the party takes control of the House.

Norton, just elected to a ninth term, currently can vote in committee but not on the floor.

Beyond the proposed rule changes, Pelosi supports full voting rights in the House for the District. But she opposes pending legislation introduced last spring by Norton and U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) that would achieve that goal because of a trade-off provision supported by Republicans. That provision would give Utah, a Republican stronghold, another seat in the House.

Lawmakers could consider Norton's proposed voting-rights measure next week, when they return briefly before adjourning for Thanksgiving. This week, President Bush said he will review that bill, but he did not say whether he would support it.

Norton said she did not request the rule change sought by Pelosi but is pleased the House will consider it.

From 1993 to early 1995, Norton and delegates from four U.S. territories were allowed to vote on the House floor in most cases. However, if their votes ever provided the margin of victory on a measure, a House member could request a second, binding vote without them. Republicans nixed the limited vote in 1995, after taking control of Congress.

Pelosi's press secretary, Jennifer Crider, said last night that the proposed rule changes would seek a return to those provisions. However, she said, Pelosi had not yet specifically addressed the issue of the U.S. territories' voting rights.

Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for Norton, said the change would be a step in the right direction.

She said Democrats "resented D.C. having that vote taken away." She added: "They also know that the full vote on all matters is what we want . . . and that is what Norton is pressing hard to get through, even during the lame-duck session."

Paul Strauss, D.C. shadow senator, called Pelosi's rules-change plan a "welcome back" gesture by Democrats, but he said that now that Democrats will control the House and Senate, they could achieve greater rights for the District. "You'd have to be crazy to think that D.C. could not get a better deal in the 110th Congress," he said.

Staff writer Jonathan Weisman contributed to this report.

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