Bush Advised To Issue Veto If D.C. Vote Bill Passes

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) are sponsoring the bill.
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) are sponsoring the bill. (By Michel Du Cille -- The Washington Post)
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The White House stepped up its opposition yesterday to legislation that would give the District a full seat in the House of Representatives, saying that if it reaches President Bush, his top advisers "would recommend that he veto the bill."

The statement came as the House Republican leadership began a vigorous campaign to persuade party members to vote against the bill when it reaches the House floor Friday.

The D.C. vote measure easily cleared two House committees last week, with strong Democratic support and votes from several Republicans. Democrats have pledged to use their 32-seat House majority to pass it. Friday will mark the first time the full House has considered granting the District a full seat in Congress since 1993, when a statehood measure was defeated.

But the threat of a presidential veto could harm the bill's chances in the Senate, where Republican support is needed to avoid a filibuster.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), would permanently add two seats to the 435-member House. It was crafted to win bipartisan support by giving one seat to the heavily Democratic District and the other to the next state in line to get a representative, Republican-leaning Utah.

A Bush spokesman said last week that the White House opposed the bill on constitutional grounds. But yesterday's declaration was stronger. It came in a Statement of Administration Policy, a document that the White House typically issues days before Congress votes on a measure.

For the first time, the White House indicated that Bush might veto the legislation. However, it did not use the toughest level of language found in such documents -- in which the president promises to wield his veto pen.

Davis expressed disappointment with the statement, saying he did not want Bush's legacy to be "that he spent hundreds of billions of dollars to bring democracy to Baghdad and tried to stifle it in his own country."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also criticized the White House declaration.

"The Speaker strongly believes the people of Washington, D.C. deserve full representation in the House of Representatives," Pelosi's office said in a statement. "This issue should be beyond politics. It involves the essence of our democracy."

Norton said she had called a high-level White House official to ask for reconsideration of the threatened veto.

"The fight has now begun," she said in a statement that did not identify the official.

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