Give D.C. a seat

Sunday, January 24, 2010

FOR SOMEONE who calls himself a "strong proponent" of voting rights for residents of the nation's capital, President Obama has been awfully quiet. It's been more than a year since he's talked about the issue, and then only when we asked. In his State of the Union address Wednesday, Mr. Obama could break his silence.

Meeting with Post editors and reporters before taking office last year, Mr. Obama proclaimed his support for a bill that would give the District a voting member in the House of Representatives. He talked, though, about this being "a pure political issue" with a "partisan flavor." He wondered, "Can we get it done?"

The measure did pass the Senate for the first time in history, albeit with a noxious gun amendment offered by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), whose lapses of ethical judgment are now under FBI investigation. Even with the bill stalled in the House, it's important not to lose sight of the widespread support it enjoys or to wonder what would have happened had Mr. Obama been more engaged. At the time of the Senate vote last February, six in 10 Americans said they favored the measure, which got more bipartisan support than did health reform or the stimulus package.

D.C. Vote, an advocate for voting rights, is spearheading a campaign to get Mr. Obama to speak out Wednesday. He wouldn't have to weigh in on the gun issue or offer a prescriptive course to break the legislative logjam, though both would be welcome. He could just note that, as long as a people who pay their taxes and serve their country remain disenfranchised, all cannot be well with the State of the Union.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company