BACKERS OF D.C. voting rights say they are ready to bring their bill to the Senate floor. That the District's long-disenfranchised citizens are ready is an understatement. Before Congress heads out of town for its August recess, it should -- without further delay -- take up the issue of justice for the people who live in the nation's capital but are denied a basic American right.
Congress is set to adjourn next week, and voting rights advocates don't want the measure pushed into the fall. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has asked Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for a vote before Aug. 3. Advocates hoping to advance their cause sponsored a national call-in yesterday, and today they will hold a rally outside the Senate office buildings. It's encouraging that the bill has gotten as far as it has. It passed easily in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last month, and a similar measure was approved by the full House in April.
Part of the appeal of the bill is its bipartisan approach. It would add two seats to the House, one for the mainly Democratic District and the other for predominantly Republican Utah. Mostly, though, there is a growing recognition by members of both parties that there is no way to explain, much less justify, why 550,000 Americans are denied a voice in their government because of where they happen to live. That Republicans such as Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.) and former congressman Jack Kemp have bucked their party on the bill underscores its essential fairness and, we hope, will serve as an inspiration to others.
Democrats who are pushing the legislation are not talking about how many votes they have, so it's not known whether they will get the 60 needed to head off a threatened filibuster. It does appear, though, that there are at least 51 senators who favor the measure. Opponents who would resort to a filibuster to thwart the legislation should be reminded that they would be the first to filibuster a voting rights bill since the early 1960s. Surely that's an example no one would want to follow.