Weak Excuses

Saturday, September 22, 2007

SILLY US. We had thought that this week's Senate vote on D.C. voting rights was about fairness for those who live in the nation's capital. Turns out it was Montana's interests that were at stake. At least that's Montana Sen. Max Baucus's explanation for being the lone Democrat voting against the measure. Mr. Baucus's concern over his state's influence being watered down by an expanded House is laughable -- even if it's no more far-fetched than Republican claims of being committed to District representation if properly done.

It's heartening that supporters of the voting rights bill have not been deterred by such flimsy excuses. Short the three votes needed to bring the bill to the Senate floor, proponents told The Post's Mary Beth Sheridan that they will wage a grass-roots campaign targeting eight senators, some facing reelection. Included are senators who proponents claim had indicated support, only to back out at the last minute. The thinking is that Republican senators such as Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) or Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) might be able to resist pressure from party leaders if they get a different kind of pressure from voters in their states. Then, too, perhaps Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who stayed away from the vote, could be persuaded to at least bring the measure to the floor, where he could then voice any concerns he might have about its constitutionality.

Resurrecting the bill will be no easy task. The Republican leadership is adamant in its opposition and has shown it is adept in denying the Democratic majority the 60 votes needed to proceed on legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) deserves credit for pushing D.C. voting rights, and he's indicated he is willing to try again next year. Instead of being held hostage to the procedural games of Republicans, Mr. Reid should consider other options, like attaching D.C. voting rights to another bill. Or, if still in search of 60 votes, he could let opponents have their filibuster. As proponents rightly point out, this bill is about civil rights; we'd like to see opponents defend the notion that it's okay for half a million Americans not to have a voice in their government. With all due respect to Mr. Baucus, that's a hard sell -- even in Montana.

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