Pelosi Affirms Support of Full D.C. Voting Rights

By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 11, 2006

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the incoming speaker of the House of Representatives, supports District voting rights and is a co-sponsor of legislation that would give Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) a full vote in the House, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

The statement from Pelosi's office clarified her position after heated discussion on Washington Post Radio about her position on the issue. On Thursday, Pelosi said she would change House rules on the first day of the new Democratic-controlled session in January so that Norton could vote on proposed changes but not final approval of legislation on the House floor. That would be a temporary measure, Norton said.

"She wants D.C. to have full voting rights in the House," said Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for Pelosi (D-Calif.). "She doesn't co-sponsor many pieces of legislation."

On Thursday, Crider had referred to Pelosi's opposition to portions of an earlier version of a voting rights bill. After changes were made, Pelosi signed on to the current bill, introduced in May by Norton and U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.).

City officials, including Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty and Vincent C. Gray, chairman-elect of the D.C. Council, said they are concerned that the temporary measure does not go far enough.

"This is going back to a proposal where we get a vote only if it doesn't count," Fenty said. "It doesn't make any sense. . . . We need to go to something more substantive."

The Norton-Davis bill links the D.C. vote to an additional congressional seat in Utah, raising the total number of House members from 435 to 437. Pelosi did not favor legislation that included redistricting in Utah, a move that some lawmakers feared would jeopardize that state's only Democrat representative. Pelosi later signed on to the bill after Utah made the congressional seat a statewide position.

The question for voting rights advocates is whether there will be time to consider and pass the bill before the current session ends.

Norton, who has championed voting rights for the District since she took office in 1991, said she prefers passage of the bipartisan bill this month rather than waiting until the Democrats take the majority.

Ilir Zherka, executive director of the nonprofit group D.C. Vote, is calling for an immediate vote.

"The next Congress is going to be very busy dealing with a lot of issues, and so our view is let's get this done now, because we have already dealt with the full range of questions posed about this bill," he said.

"Having got this far, to the 10-yard line, let's finish it."

Before the bill can move through Congress, however, Utah state lawmakers must vote on their portion of the measure. Aides to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Utah House Speaker Greg J. Curtis said this week that legislation creating the congressional seat could be approved in one day.

If this happens next week, Norton is optimistic that Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will move the legislation to a floor vote in House. The Senate would also need to vote on it.

"The question is, is there time on their watch?" Norton said.

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