Rider reversal: House Democrats' D.C. vote strategy

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

REPUBLICANS ARE upset that House Democratic leaders may try to get the D.C. voting rights bill passed by attaching it to the fiscal 2010 defense appropriations bill. They argue that it would be wrong to include controversial legislation in an unrelated bill. Do they really think everyone has forgotten that they used the same ploy to sabotage voting rights in the first place?

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) was asked about the Democrats' strategy on the D.C. bill Thursday afternoon during the weekly colloquy about upcoming schedules. Republican Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy of California wanted to know whether rumors were true that the defense bill would include legislation giving the District a voting member of Congress. "I've heard discussion," replied Mr. Hoyer. "I will continue to fight to find any way to bring that to the floor."

Bravo to Mr. Hoyer for his continuing commitment to District rights and for calling out Republicans on their hypocrisy. After all, it was Republicans -- led by the ethically challenged Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) and aided by weak-kneed Democrats pandering to the gun lobby -- who led the effort to attach a noxious gun amendment to the voting rights bill. That unrelated amendment, which would strip local D.C. officials of their ability to regulate guns, has stalled the voting rights measure in the House because leaders lack support to bring a clean bill to the floor.

As to Mr. McCarthy's concern about placing an unrelated matter in a bill involving U.S. troops, Mr. Hoyer noted the irony of America's soldiers fighting and dying for the right of the people of Baghdad to vote while the people of Washington, D.C., remain disenfranchised. And if Republicans are concerned about legislative gamesmanship, there is an easy solution: Allow the House to vote up or down on democracy for the District of Columbia.

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