A Dec. 1 article about the effort to secure voting rights for the District in the U.S. House incorrectly said that constitutional amendments must be approved by two-thirds of state legislatures to be ratified. They must be approved by three-fourths of the states. The article referred to a 1978 constitutional amendment that would have given the District a vote in the House and two votes in the Senate. It collapsed when only 16 of the necessary 38 states approved it.
D.C. Fights Clock, But Approval of Voting Bill Stalls
Friday, December 1, 2006
D.C. Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty went to Capitol Hill yesterday and Utah prepared to redraw its congressional districts as members of both parties said a plan to add House seats for the District and Utah had good prospects for approval next year.
Fenty and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton met with House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to push for passage next week of the voting rights bill, before the current session of Congress adjourns. That appears unlikely, according to congressional leaders. A more probable scenario, they said, has the bill reemerging early next year in a new, Democrat-controlled Congress.
"Early on, we should be able to get this through," said Norton (D), the District's nonvoting member of the House and a co-sponsor of the legislation. She said she remained hopeful for a vote next week, but "the enemy is time."
The bill would create two House seats -- one for the mostly Democratic District and the other for Utah, a Republican stronghold. Utah legislators are scheduled to vote Monday on boundaries for their proposed extra district. Congressional leaders in Washington had insisted on such a map before moving forward.
Fenty (D) and others hoped that the Utah action would propel Congress to act next week. But Republicans, who control the House, said they doubted the bill would get a vote in the session beginning Tuesday. A Democratic leadership aide, speaking on background, agreed.
In the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the majority whip, said this week that he had heard no discussion about bringing the voting-rights bill to the floor in that chamber. And Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), said yesterday that a vote was "probably unlikely at this point."
Fenty said yesterday that he is hopeful, too.
"We're taking every step possible to get it passed next week. A lot of people have worked hard. It's very possible it could pass," he said in an interview after the 15-minute meeting with Pelosi.
He acknowledged that there is only a short window to act in the lame-duck session. He said he is planning to contact McConnell as well as such prominent politicians as Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the next few days to generate momentum. He said he has spoken to some key members of both parties, including Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
The bill is considered the most promising effort in years to gain a full House seat for the District. In 1978, Congress approved a constitutional amendment to give the District two votes in the Senate and one vote in the House. The effort collapsed when it failed to win ratification by two-thirds of state legislatures.
President Bush has said he will review the bill, but he has not taken a stand on it.
In their visit, Fenty and Norton also spoke to Pelosi about gaining more budget and legislative autonomy for the District. Pelosi, who was on the D.C. appropriations subcommittee at one time, agreed that Congress should interfere less in the city's affairs, according to a news release from Norton.